Today is one of German children's favorite holidays. It's St. Nicolaus Day. Yesterday all around Germany, children were busy cleaning their boots so that they shine like gold and diamonds. The tradition says, that whoever puts their boots on the stoop of the front door and was a good kid last year will get a visit from St. Nicolaus, who fills the shoes with small gifts and sweets. That keeps St. Nicolaus very busy. And explains why he has to wait until Christmas Eve in America to fill the children's stockings there.
Are you a Santa Sleuth? How many St. Nicolaus figures can you find im my 'Heidelberg wimmelt' Christmas market scene?
That's why at the Christmas Market in Heidelberg St. Nick has a lot of helpers handing out chocolate to the children. Here the Kindergarten group is surrounding one of them. We adults know that it is not easy to manage Christmas alone. A helper or two or three is a must. And perhaps we should remember that we don't need to bake 30 kinds of cookies, nor do all the rooms in our home have to sparkle as if they were just visited by a unicorn spewing glitter.
Let's face it, how many women are reading this and thinking, "But... "But nothing," I say. We set our own expectations. We want everything to be 'perfect'. Me, too. But over the years I have learned from my own children that my idea of a 'perfect Christmas' deviates quite strongly from theirs.
Let's start with the children's ideas of how Christmas should be. What do they really want? How long will they remember the new phone you gave them? Think of your own memories of Christmas Past. Maybe here and there a beloved toy will appear in those memories, but for me it was the gravy for the turkey and pies my grandma baked, the red-and-white swirled candy canes we adorned the tree with. The songs we sang together...
My father had always managed to select the saddest looking fir tree. My mother's brother often teased him about it. But just like in Charlie Brown's Christmas, when the colourful lights finally were lit, the old tree decorations and the tinsel were hung, it was the most beautiful Christmas tree in the world.
And now tell me, what do you remember from your childhood? What was your most beautiful Christmas? The year of the Carrera racetrack? The year of the Legos? Barbies? Or was it the time you spent with your family?
So here's my suggestion on St. Nicolaus Day: Keep it simple. Just do things that you enjoy for Christmas. Make some Christmas cards if you feel like it. And have someone help you. Young children are happy to help. The teens might groan and complain that they aren't 'babies' anymore, but actually they do want to be 'little' again (with all the benefits and none of the responsibilities) and join in the fun. Your home doesn't have to be cleaner than usual. Play some music or croon some tunes yourself. It'll put you into a good mood and increase your anticipation of Christmas.
Enjoy the winter time, contemplate the meaning of Advent and, above all, take it easy and maybe leave out something that you really don't enjoy doing. That is your own gift to yourself.
Another gift of the extra-special sort: My wimmelbook, 'Heidelberg wimmelt' that you can get from your favorite book store, directly from the Silberburg publishing house, or from an online bookstore of your choice is really a nice present for Christmas. Also as a special memento for friends who have studied or lived there.
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