Remember those days when you were little and you knew soon it would be Christmas? You had no clue when exactly, and every day was filled with wonder and worry whether Santa, in a German’s case the Christ child, would bring you gifts? Because you hadn’t been all that good as expected? But you were always able to rely on the mail man to bring parcels from your very reliable relatives far away (and they didn’t know or care about your shenanigans) …
When we grew older, we stopped believing in Santa and the Christ child as givers of presents under the Christmas tree. We started saving pocket money to get gifts for our loved ones, and more often than not the gifts of our siblings were more of a surprise than those our parents gave us because they, after all, had our wish list. Our siblings not so much. And if our far-away relatives still sent a box, we were embracing their effort even more. Maybe we even waited to unwrap theirs, the far-traveled box, as the very last one to keep up the anticipation.
These days, Christmas mail has become something of a mass production. You can buy boxes of cards with envelopes at cut-rates. They don’t even look cheap. Or you can have your photos printed into cards by an online service – without ever so much as leaving the house. Poems and other texts are often included in the store-bought cards, leaving you hardly any space except for your signature. And some people just send you a glossy photo, no signature even anymore. Because they don’t care that much about you but don’t want to be thought to be uncaring?
I have created a load of Christmas cards again this year. I have bought card stock and stamped, embossed, and glued. And there will be a personal message for every single recipient of our Christmas mail, for sure. Because we know how nice it feels to get a personal greeting with a little more than just the signature. I have to admit though that we keep the number of Christmas cards to a limit. In the end, with over 300 Facebook friends between my husband and me, a card for everybody would get things a little out of hand.
We also create our own calendars for Christmas gifts. As we are the only ones in our families out here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a great opportunity of sharing our life and the beautiful landscape with them and some friends. It connects us throughout the entire year, and thanks to the internet, creating a calendar is a walk in the park.
It gives us joy to prepare the Christmas mail. We have to do so quite early in some cases, too, because of our family overseas, and the postal service’s cut-off dates for them is about a week earlier than for recipients in the US. Sending out the mail also fills us with anticipation. Will we receive cards? Who will make the effort to put in more than their signature?
With the arrival of the first card, we empty a side table for its presentation. Some years, the table is so filled with beautiful cards that we have to place them behind each other to make room for more. It’s a Christmassy decoration in its own rights. Just like the wrapped parcels we place underneath the Christmas tree that goes up a while before Christmas, as is the American tradition in our family. Sometimes, the mail brings a parcel or a thicker envelope – these get treasured and placed underneath the tree as well.
To spread the joy, you need to feel it yourself, of course. I find the preparation of Christmas mail and gifts is a perfect way to make yourself feel Christmassy. It’s a bit over a month from now that our own anticipations will be answered. Shortly after Thanksgiving, all our mail will have gone overseas – and we know that there are hooks or nails in rooms waiting for our annual calendar gift, again. Even though it’s not Santa or the Christ child anymore, who is bringing us greetings and gifts, between the senders and the mail services, I think spreading the joy works pretty well. If with a little less of the fairy-tale magic of our childhood days.
A G Toth says
Christmas cards…not my favorite thing! After I married, my husband, who was a talented fine artist, wanted to send out a newsletter to his widespread family and to many friends. I wrote up the letter, he put illustrations around all the edges (and sometimes in the middle), and I mailed all 300 of the cards. He wanted to do the same the next year, and we continued sending out the cards for 10 years. That last year, I had signed, stuffed, addressed and stamped almost 340 cards (we had added a few folks to our list). Everything was ready to go by November 15th. In January of the next year, as I was putting decorations away, I found all the cards in the back of my husband’s desk…we had forgotten to mail them! I realized we had only received 7 or 8 cards in the mail…no one, to this day has ever commented on our missing Christmas letters and I’m just as happy to not be going to all the trouble of writing, copying, individualizing, signing, stuffing, stamping, and mailing them. Guess that makes me a grouch, but I still enjoy Christmas, even without cards.
Susanne Bacon says
300 cards and more?! Good grief! Not even a single person in a company has to write that many. No wonder you didn’t like it. You are no grouch. You simply overdid it! As I said: If YOU don’t feel the joy in it, it won’t spread either.
Eveyn Twomey says
One reason I enjoy receiving Christmas cards in the mail is, it is almost only time I receive mail that is not ads, or someone wanting a donation. I find it enjoyable to see an envelope. hand written, with maybe a Christmas stamp on it to cheer up the holiday,
addressed to me. I say God bless those who still continue to send cards.
A letter inside is a real plus.
So merry Christmas to all who mail out cards, ,and well, , to those who don’t too.
Susanne Bacon says
Right?! It doesn’t have to be much, but a handwritten Christmas card brings home the holiday joy.
A G Toth says
Oh, I still send out a few cards to immediate family and 3 or 4 old friends…it’s just the whole ‘Cards to everyone’ thing I don’t miss
Yes, Merry Christmas to all, with or without cards!
Susanne Bacon says
And Merry Christmas to you!
Peg Doman says
I always enjoy reading your stories about Christmas in Weinacht-land. My dad was in the Air Force and we moved to a small village Wolsfeld, just out side of Bitburg. We lived right across from a Gasthaus. Pat or I and would go over with the biggest bowl we had for Pomme Frites for our family, then with seven children. We lived in an upstairs apartment that had a big bedroom across the landing that the four girls stayed in, heated by a pot bellied stove.
After the Rhine froze over and dad had to go to the next village with a milk container that held many gallons of water for us and our downstairs neighbors, Mama and Papa Weber. My youngest sister Kate was born at Bitburg hospital. She was the only one who lived in her bassinette in the only room with an oil heater.
I loved living in Germany. I loved living someplace that had hundreds and thousands of years of history. I was so annoyed with my classmates that only wanted to go to MacDonalds and a drive in movie. I couldn’t believe they were not in love with the culture and the history.
We moved to Wolsfeld in October 1992, in time for a Geman Christmas mass. I was overjoyed to hear the really spectacular singing. Our family was invited to go see the Nativity scene in a German family’s living room. It was spectacular – a special decorated hut built for the scene. Pat and I were invited to have a sherry with them, as did the Weber family, and it was a grimacing experience for us. We were Not used to liquor them, although we did learn to enjoy the spring wine fests and a small beer. And dancing, dancing, dancing.
I had just turned 16 and was a Junior in HS. That Fasching, Helga, a local girl we met, had us go with her and her very beautiful brother Peter to dance, dance, dance.
I certainly can say that our dance training at St. Leo’s Girls HS – waltz, schottische, chachacha, rhumba, Samba and more stood us in good stead. And I had a lot more energy then!
I had a GREAT time because my avocations included reading and dancing. My sister graduated from Bitburg High, which had a senior class trip to Innsbruck but it was too expensive for our family at that time, at least she thought so.
Next year, Pat had a civilian bookkeeping job at Ramstein and she kept us in clothes and we both went to London on my senior class trip, she as a chaperon and me a gormless girl out to see the world, or more likely, we both were.
After we both graduated, we joined the Ramstein in the Catholic Young Adult chapel group. The first place we went was to an orphanage near Christmas time and toured the farm as well and then went to a Gasthaus. This was the first time we shared a snap cap and we were definitely over our heads! We went to Heidelberg several times and once to Freibug in the Black Forest for Fasching. We went to Eibsee in the winter time and visted the Zugspitz again. It was certainly very different from the Woldfeld event.
Eventually we moved to housing on a beautiful hill not far from Trier, a most magical city. Up to then, this was the most spacious and lovely place we lived. The third floor apartment had an orchard out back which was in pink bloom when we arrived. Out the front, we looked across the wide lawn to the commanding officers’ homes, and made a friend that we had been in class with at Bitburg. We were just a group of kids that hung out together. Trier was just a walk down the hill and quite a walk back up the hill from the bus! We even played hide and seek in the Roman Baths, then wide open. No one ever said a word. We went to cafes and had desserts with whipped cream.
Then we moved to the NATO base Ramstein, not far from Kaiserslautern and really near to Landstuhl, one of the hospitals that injured military are sent to from Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. We made real friends there and I’m still in touch with a few of them.
Anyway, I’ll send you a copy of my treatise sometime, if I ever get finished.
Peg Doman says
I love your stories of your life in Germany. Keep writing. Also, I belong to the Tacoma Calligraphy since 1985 and we used to make Christmas cards to exchange. Mine were mostly cartoonish and had things like snowman and snowwoman in fleece vests with the statement, “Fleece Navidad”. I also drew tiny black-face sheep on a hill with a star overhead which the same greeting. I once drew a tree with fruits and vegetables on it and called it “Peas on Earth!” One year, we had the family Christmas party at our house (always until we grew kids big enough with a big enough house to have a Party!) and I wasn’t finished with my cards, a stylized Christmas tree and I sat every kid down to use colored pencils and finish their own cards. I think they liked it! We don’t make cards for everyone any more, just more on their individual birthdays, which is quite a few with so many siblings, spouses, kids, grandkids, etc,. etc., etc. as the King of Siam was so fond of saying.
Susanne Bacon says
What beautiful reminiscences, Peg! Thank you ever so much for sharing and for your kind words about my humble writing. I find myself in such a festive mood now that I read all your stories! Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving. And, yes, I’m truly looking forward to this holiday, too, even though it will be only my hubs me this year.