When I was a schoolchild, maybe about 6 years old, we sang songs for Christmas from an old Christmas songbook with my grandma and grandpa. My grandfather was a German who emigrated to America. My grandmother's parents were also from Germany, from Upper Auerbach (Oberauerbach) in the Palatinate. In my naive thoughts and fantasy, I imagined that it must be wonderful to come from far away Germany and everything that had to do with my grandparents was "German" for me. That applied to the Christmas songbook we sang from with its beautiful illustrations, lithographs of singing children, of the good King Wenceslas, who went through the thick snowstorm with his knave to help the poor. Perhaps it was this illustration that made me believe that it always snows all over Germany at Christmastime. I can feel many Northern Germans suppressing a grin right now. But yes. I really did believe that.
When I became an immigrant and began celebrating Christmas in Germany, I learned the truth the hard way. It was cold but there was not a bit of snow to be seen. Often there has been cold rain showers around Christmas. I live in Lower Saxony, less than an hour away from the Harz. From November on in the Harz Mountains it does snow, but in this quiet valley region where I live, it doesn't snow a bit.
The neighbours, many were pensioners over 70, admired the diligence of my children, and occasionally rewarded them with chocolate or books for this "commendable task". I smiled. But I knew the truth.
It was a disappointment, I must say, when my juvenile imagination had to be confronted with the reality of the North German weather. Especially when my children were still young. It almost never snowed at Christmas. And when the snow came, they cheered loudly and disappeared outside, grabbing one of their plastic sleds and their shovels, and shovelling every snowflake onto the sled they could find. The neighbours, many were pensioners over 70, admired the diligence of my children, and occasionally rewarded them with chocolate or books for this "commendable task". I smiled. But I knew the truth. My children gathered the snow because they wanted to build a snowman. The snow in the garden wasn't even enough to make a snowball with. The results of their work? That was often a knee-high snowman, with a carrot nose and stone eyes.
That is why you hardly see any snow in my illustration of the Heidelberg Christmas market in my wimmelbook. The only snow that is falling, falls out of a pillow shaken by Frau Hoelle, the German's equivalent to Mother Goose. (If you aren't familiar with German fairy tales, everytime Frau Hoelle shakes out her pillow and her comforter, it snows here on earth) And it's that little bit of snow that reminds me of the joy and efforts of my children, their jubilation about snow at Christmas, jubilation about having fun and joy in their work and a jubilation about Christmas, itself.
This little vignette that I am presenting to you today is not particularly large and measures only a tiny 4.5 cm wide in the original drawing. It's even smaller in the wimmelbook. So you need good eyes (and maybe a child) to find it. And below Frau Hoelle on the Christmas Market? There are two snowmen, full of joy because it is finally snowing in time for Christmas.
Look for them and Frau Hoelle in Heidelberg wimmelt. My hidden image book, Heidelberg wimmelt, is available from your favorite book store, directly from the Silberburg Verlag publishing house, or from an online bookstore of your choice and makes a really nice gift for Christmas. It is a fantastic memento for friends who have studied or lived there.