Archive for January 2nd, 2012

Well, so, the first day of January has come and gone.  I wonder if I can get away with posting for it at 2:00 a.m.??

However, on another plane, on another calendar — it’s still the pre-Christmas period, 20 December, to be exact.  The Russian Orthodox Church keeps to the Julian Calendar for its Church feasts — not the same Julian Calendar as the Army, in which no date is repeated, but the calendar that was in place at the time of Christ.  The beauty of this calendar is that you get all the holiday fuss and bustle out of the way, and still have thirteen days during which you can focus exclusively on the birth of the Messiah, that point in history where God Himself breaks into it to change its course forever.

But there are other times and periods, even in the pre-Christmas season, where Eternity touches the mundane, everyday world.  Other posts have noted that my husband and I lived in Germany for three years, while he was doing his military service, and at the very beginning of our marriage.  It was a magical time, during which I learned to speak fluent German and he sharpened his high school/college German, during which we both learned to get around town and the environs by bicycle, shop for groceries every day, and generally live a very different life from the average American’s.

Nobody does Christmas like Germans.  It’s a much more family-oriented time than it is in America, and most of the focus is on children.  And the kick-off for the holiday is (whether or not most Germans even remember this) a saint’s feast:  St. Nicholas was a real person, whose feast is on December 6.  And on one Feast of St. Nicholas…well, I’ll let my husband tell the story.  From a letter he wrote to an elderly relative:

Germans open the Christmas season on December 6th, the Feastof St. Nicholas, aka Sankt Nikolaus.  A tleast in our time, I think those who could went to Mass in the morning, after St. Nikolaus, sometime during the night, left Christmas cookies ineverybody’s socks.  The bigger your socks, the more cookies you got! Theoretically, anyway.

So, in the early evening of December 6th, my wife and I were out for a walk around Walldorf [the town where we lived], and we were enjoying the first signs of die Weihnachtszeit—twinkly white lights here and there on the Weihnachtsbaum inside.  Germany is where we first saw exclusively white lights used in Christmas decorations.  In fact, we eagerly embraced the custom, putting electric candles on our first tree.  Anyway, the evening was crisp and cold, but it wasn’t chilling our bones.  We had seen a few of our neighbors and some people we knew from church who were also out on foot, and we were approaching the street-level train station, on the other side of the street, when some Christmas magic happened.

An older lady was resolutely walking by the doorway to the station.  She was a bit stooped and small—she couldn’thave been more than 5 feet tall—and very bundled in her winter coat.  Suddenly, out came…St. Nikolaus!  He was a lot thinner than Santa Claus, but,with that red hat and suit and black boots, and with a cloth sack over his shoulder, on December 6th, it could not have been anyone else.

The little lady stopped in her tracks and, almost a girl again, she bowed and exclaimed, “Oh, SanktNikolaus, Guten Abend!  Good evening!”  And Sankt Nikolaus also bowed, and chuckled, and warmly wished her a good evening, too.  Then — all auf Deutsch, of course — he asked her if she had been good in the past year; and, of course, she assured him that surely she had been very good, and he nodded his approval.

St. Nikolaus shook his sack from his shoulder, held it in front of himself, and rummaged among the contents.  In a few moments, he brought some little item out.  What it was we could only guess.  But when he handed it to her, that little lady glowed with delight.  She bowed, and cooed, and—certainly demurely—even whooped, taking the gift and holding it very close to herself.

And, with that, we all moved off on our separate paths.  The lady continued to walk her way.  My wife and I walked even closer together, knowing we had just seen something we would always remember.  And Sank tNikolaus…just…disappeared.  Hmmm.  Absolute magic.

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