As a bunch of children coming from humble backgrounds
and from a family where Christmas had not been a feast, we started to bully our parents when they refused not to celebrate the Christmas holidays properly with a Christmas tree, decorations and presents. They resisted, we pushed them all the harder. Or rather, I was the culprit and the schemer.
My mum and dad. A very old picture. Not sure of the year. Around the mid 1950's, I guess.
As the youngest child of six and having just come over to Germany at primary school age, I got used to our new surroundings most quickly (we came as repatriates returning to their homeland - read the full story here).
Left: my twin brothers, around the age of four. Right: My sister and me as a baby girl.
I looked around and understood how things worked in the glorious homeland of my brave ancestors.
I mobilised my siblings, who didn't like to knock their annoying little sister - except for my eldest brother, who didn't give a hoot how much I begged and charmed, he liked to tease me extensively.
Since I had been a scrawny kid, he called me "sexy leg",
alluding to my skinny and knobby knees. HaHa! I got so miffed about that and screamed "Bozo!" and hid myself under the kitchen-table out of sheer embarrassment.
Vindictively, I spoiled his card game evenings with the hot crowd (they played strip poker) wherever I could and complained loudly to my father that "they were much too loud and didn't let me sleep!" So before anyone here gets the idea to pity me. My mom regularly shook her head about all those sins going on in her household.
Anyway, I hear my father climb up the stairs,
open the skylight with a loud roar and upstairs, in the attic, take down the plastic tree with a lot of grumbling and mumbling. Then he proceeds like a fool to set up the thing and finally to strangle, pardon me, wrap the fairy lights around its plastic neck. "Damn tree! By thunder, once again!", you could hear him shouting every year.
But I, I must have been about ten or twelve years old, am already blissfully happy and I don't care how much my father gets annoyed or how much my mother complains about this sinful wastefulness, because she thinks that all this is "the devils deed". You could just "go to church, celebrate the birth of Christ and be grateful for what you already have."
No Christmas footage of old days. This one is just a few years ago. In my parents house, inherited by my brothers.
We weren't, of course.
We were children of the 70s and there was no trace of modesty to be spotted. I mean, it had just started with the private television channels and consumerism was experiencing its heyday. We wanted to buy everything and have everything we saw on TV. The perfumes, the holiday trips, the VCRs, fake jewelry, wrist watches, cool clothes. MTV, of course, was the thing, Ray Cokes and Madonna and Wham and "Purple Rain". We children gave each other pompous presents, our parents got a little something too. HaHa! When you outnumber your parents, there is not much they can do.
Anyway, for a few short years we managed to get the family together to unwrap parcels - my parents overruled and booted out - us kids satisfied.
By the time we were all finally out of the house,
and with no more gluttonous teenager to drive the point home, all our enthusiasm for giving each other great gifts at Christmas also soon fell asleep. Parental modesty had finally prevailed with us and the gift-giving craze only took place in other households, such as those of the in-laws.
There is a hilarious film shot - around Christmas circa 1993 -
that my brother recorded at my brother-in-law's house. My niece, just six years old, how you don't always see her in the picture, but her bright voice is chattering and asking all the time in the background and all excited. And how she then, neatly and well-behavedly dressed, takes part in all the Christmas present hullabaloo of a completely spoilt only child. At some point she unpacks .... a .... slide rule. And now, ladies and gents, her reaction:
"Ahhhww, waahhh, a slide rulahhh!!! That's what I've always wanted!"
Goodness, it even rhymes in English the same way it does in German. We laughed so hard, just watching the recordings recently and it became a running gag towards my now adult niece. "Slide rulah!"
In our basement, where my parents had given the television its due place
they loathed television from the bottom of their hearts, no kidding! - we watched Lord of the Rings. At that time still an unfinished first version. I was spellbound by the drama and the indescribable horror of this half cartoon half real film.
And what a dismay when the action stopped in the middle!
And no sequel!
I howled that I would "never know" whether the gruesome apocalyptic horsemen would devour all of Middle Earth or whether good would triumph in the end, and my boyfriend - hearing me loud and clear - finally surprised me with all three volumes for Christmas.
I couldn't believe my luck! Not would I have thought that the material for this story came from the pen of a book author and was not merely the result of a film script. I greedily ate my way through the pages, much like Gollum who had discovered his "little treasure".
Just the other day we gifted my mans son with the red book of Tolkiens Saga and I told him that the most fascinating character of it will be Tom Bombadil. Of which the movies never spoke.
Nevertheless, in order to still celebrate a merry Christmas,
I had once again come up with ideas. Some years ago, I had started painting with watercolours. In my manic production phases, I had finished so many paintings that I no longer knew what to do with them. So I packed a big folder full and all the siblings and nieces/nephews could choose some. It went down quite well, even though some of the artworks ended up in the closet anyway, some of them still made it onto the walls of my relatives.
I love gifts and I know others love them too. But it's not a must. Last year we only surprised my husband. He was the only one being gifted (out of us adults). Because not only I love him but my brothers too, he deserved being thanked with an unexpected present.
We humans are a bit monkeyish in that respect, aren't we?
And why not. Still, we've given up on gift-operas.
You just don't know what else to get because you're not surrounded by urgent and pressing desires. People don't really know what they would like if you ask them. If you have to think about what makes you happy first, it's basically irrelevant. Then you already have everything. Except for a house and your own land.
That's why I went amongst the luxury lovers.
I like expensive or original stuff. I became a true materialist. I like things which last me a lifetime. Not because of "the environment" but because they are fine, smell good, are excellently made, can be repaired, polished and loved. Same goes with other goods. That's why they are called "goods". The "bads" get thrown away after a while. I don't condemn them though. They have their purpose. Often more, than one thinks.
And I feel gifted with receiving a warm genuine hug by my brothers, listening to their stories from work or marriage, from their children and grand children. The older they become, the funnier, I find. More honest. Even more emotional, in particular my oldest brother. Remember, the one who gave me names? Without him, I'd miss a great deal of my childhood. He educated me in his own way. ;) That's it.
Two tables set next to each other, in order to have space for the crowd.
Now, you cannot expect being gifted with those fine expensive things.
It remains to look forward to the holidays and let the year slowly come to an end. The candles do well for the short days and so is the warmth in the rooms.
See you next time!
And I feel gifted with receiving a warm genuine hug by my brothers, listening to their stories from work or marriage, from their children and grand children. The older they become, the funnier, I find. More honest. Even more emotional, in particular my oldest brother. Remember, the one who gave me names? Without him, I'd miss a great deal of my childhood. He educated me in his own way. ;)