I have started this particular post multiple times. How do we share about our first Christmas abroad? It was wonderful and difficult all at once. That is what we should expect. It was our first year completely away from all family, for the first time in our lives. But also, it was our first Christmas in Berlin and it is a big, beautiful holiday here. I decided to tell you the things we did and did not do as more of a list than a long drawn out detailed post.
What we did not do this Christmas:
- Take loads of pictures. I normally take pictures all through Christmas Eve and Christmas day. This year I took only a few. That means I was more present this year for Christmas than I have ever been in my children’s short lives. It also means I have less photographic proof that we had an enjoyable day.
- I did not cook a huge meal. We enjoyed Christmas Eve with a German family who lives hear us and had a delicious meal and fun. On Christmas day we enjoyed appetizers with some co-workers also celebrating their first Christmas in Berlin. Small but delicious foods were created, but no large feast. We did really miss beef for Christmas, we miss good beef a lot.
- We did not get our Christmas cards made and ordered in time. Guess they will be Happy New Year’s cards this year. I cannot wait to order them, as I spend much time plotting and planning their appearance.
- We skipped stockings. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something, but remembered we didn’t need that piece of Christmas this year because we had a similar experience in early December. (See post about Nikolaustag.)
- We did not leave the house on Christmas day or the day after because we had no place to travel to and the stores were all closed. No running out on the 26th to go clearance shopping for me this year, thatt felt odd. No racing off to the next celebration so pjs were enjoyed until our evening guests were slated to arrive.
- We did not shop on Christmas Eve. It was a calm day getting the last pieces together for the celebrations we were having and attending.
What we did:
- We got a tree. They don’t look the same here, a little skinnier and the tops are odd, but we found a good one for us. Denny carried it home and up the steps and we took joy decorating it after he strung the lights. Interesting and new to us info about Christmas lights in Germany: they don’t plug into each other so we have a big power strip only for Christmas lights. Silliness.
- We kept our new ornament each year tradition and allowed the kids to each choose ONE ornament at a Weihnachtsmarkt to have as their first German ornament. We now own an owl, another lizard, and a dachshund for our tree. Denny and I went more traditional with the Christmas pickle, a carved wooden Berlin ornament, and a ceramic Santa. We chose three because we can, we are in charge;)
- We still made cookies. We had a generous package packed and delivered by co-workers with love and gifts from MN and we thought ahead and asked for Hershey’s kisses. We made peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter bars, and Grandma deBruyn’s Sugar Cookies. Next year we will order the color sugar in advance to make these cookies the normal way. I tried coloring sugar but it is too fine and the stores carried some pastel colors but they too were not the right consistency. They all tasted good so for next year: colored sugar and Hershey’s kisses.
- We took family photos in the cold and wind. It wasn’t quite as cold as MN, but it was a very cold and windy day when we had our photos taken. We seem to choose days that are bitterly cold to take these photos and force all 5 of us to pose without jackets or other protective clothing. Some traditions you just have to keep alive.
- We opened pjs on Christmas Eve. It is another tradition for us to give the kids pjs that night. Micah caught on a couple weeks before Christmas and made the remark that perhaps this year would be the year we changed things and didn’t do pjs. So, I did change things: I threw some small band-a-loom packages and two chocolates into the bag too. Not a big change, but he appreciated it.
- We went to Christmas Eve service and it was packed. You’re probably thinking of course it was packed, it was Christmas. I just didn’t expect people to sit on the steps and be standing in back. We heard the Christmas story twice at the service: once read from Luke 2 and once acted out as a skit. That helped with the German a little. I didn’t recognize all the songs sung, but I assume they are traditional Christmas songs that we just don’t usually sing in the U.S.
- We Skyped with family. That was good and hard. I didn’t see my family last year for Christmas either so I assumed it would be easier this year for me. I tend to forget I am an emotional person. It was great to see them together and loved talking to each of them. It is good Skype is free because we have been on it for hours this past week.
- We still spent time playing board games. It feels like a tradition for us to spend much of Christmas week playing board games both new and old. This year was no different. We had co-workers over on Christmas and played games with them and the kids. Our family has also been spending time playing board games this week. It is a good, warm way to pass these gray and dreary days.
- We have made our Christmas card wall. Thank you to all who have sent us cards. They still seem to trickle in each day here and we love getting them from you. They have a prominent display on our entry way wall.
We missed MN Christmas: snow, our home, our family celebrations, our church, our friends, our bigger oven. So many things about “home”, but really I can sit on a comfy chair and sip tea, listen to Christmas music and stare at our Christmas tree no matter where I live, which is one of my favorite things to do around Christmas. My kids were joyous on Christmas morning and they enjoyed playing and relaxing the whole Christmas day and that made it a good day for me too. Spending time Skyping with family means we are more intentionally talking with each other and it makes our time meaningful and precious. So as hard as it was to be away from “home”, I am so glad I was home from Christmas this year. God knew last year as we packed our belongings in preparation of this move that we would be home for Christmas this year. He knew as we sorted our Christmas ornaments into: “Take” and “Leave” boxes that this year we would have a tree and it would lift our hearts to combine old and new ornaments onto it representing our lives here and there. Christmas would look and feel different, but it would be good. Perhaps our period of nomadic living prepared our hearts this year to be content, even happy, where we are today.
We hope you had a very merry and joyfilled Christmas this year!