December 24, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Day 24

Christmas Eve!! It's here! Tomorrow is Christmas. Joy. I feel like a kid in Candyland. It has been relatively calm around here these last few weeks, but this morning chaos broke the peaceful homefront. See, I'd been up what felt like all night with our cat, yes cat, who I seriously think treated himself to a leftover espresso shot in the kitchen, 'cause he was wild on fire. The crazy night should have clued me in to what this morning would be like...a toppled over Christmas tree, wet gifts, spilled over Christmas cookies on the living room floor, and a four-hour departure delay to the grocery store. Man, was I ever thankful that my great neighbor-in-law, Andy Puhl, had agreed to guest post today! Andy grew up in the States and has been helping me hone up on my English conversation skills these past couple months. He's a hoot and we are so thankful that he, Jasmin and her kiddos moved in next door! Without further ado, a few pictures and Andy's delightful post:

our topple-free tree stand (thanks Augustiner Brewery!)

Christmas here and there

As a German who spent most of his childhood in the United States, I thought I could try to capture the spirit and write about “Christmas USA vs. Christmas Germany”.
Although my first four were spent in Germany, I really don’t remember them. Funny, since you’d think kids allways remember Christmas. (oh well, my girlfriend’s son is 4 and can’t even remember what he did in Kindergarden when I pick him up, so I guess that’s normal)
The first Christmas I can really recall was 1974 in Presidio, San Francisco, CA. I was 6 and I got an electric football game which I totally loved and still have in my cellar today. (Yes, I have trouble throwing things away. I also have my old atari and two slotless racetracks from the 70s. All three do not work.)
I also remember going totally nuts when I got an aquarium as an 8 year old in Pittsburgh, PA. Otherwise it was usually some sort of electric race track that broke on the same day.
When I was 14 we came back to Germany and I got to exprience Christmas here. As a teenager you aren’t quite as excited anymore, but I still enjoyed my clothes, skis, records, computer and so on.
So, although it was at a different ages, I’ll still try to compare X-masses.
The main difference is on which day you open the presents. In the States of course you wake up on the 25th and there are tons of packages under the tree (if you were good… and lucky). Im Germany you get your stuff on Christmas Eve. No Santa down the chimney at night, no sleigh, no Rudolph. Instead the Christkind (Chris Kringle to Americans) brings the presents when the children are out of he room and when the bell rings, it’s time to storm the tree.
For children both ways have their up- and downsides. (are there actually Christmas downsides for kids?) Sure, it’s better to get your presents earlier. However, since they are usually opened at around 5-6 p.m., there isn’t really that much time to play with everything until bedtime. Then you have to go to sleep, knowing there are tons of very cool toys waiting to be played with. Opening them on the morning of the 25th leaves you with a whole day of fun ahead of you. However, as we all know, it is really hard to sleep the night before. You go to bed and know that in the morning, there will be presents under the tree. I used to wake up really early and ask my mom and dad if I could go downstairs. They would always say, “No! It’s 5 a.m., go back to bed!” At least I was allowed to look in my stocking, but a matchbox car, an orange and a candy cane can only get you so far. For parents on the other hand, the American way is definitely easier, at least in terms of getting the presents under the tree. The kids are in bed and everything can be taken care of.
The way Christmas is celebrated in general is also different. Germany does it more the “old country traditional” way, which I really like. Christmas markets, glühwein (hot wine), St. Nikolaus, Christmas cookies and candy, old Christmas songs... great stuff. In the States it is – or rather - it was (at least from 1973-1981... wow, long time ago) quite festive but in a different “American” way. It’s all bigger, louder and more colorful. As a kid I really enjoyed that, too. And I must say I really miss Frosty, the Grinch, Rudolph and so on. Brings back a lot of childhood memories.
But no matter where in world you celebrate, it’s funny how Christmas changes the older you get. As a child you just want the coolest toys, then you still want stuff but also start getting things for other people and later you have (at least I do) more fun seeing my family and friends unpack the presents I get them.
But I guess I was never as excited about Christmas than I have been this year. Having become an instant Dad in 2010 I can’t wait until the kids unpack their presents. To see their happy faces is just going to thrill me to death.

Merry Christmas to all of you, wherever you are!

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