by Laurie Kingery
Since it's getting very close to Christmas and the stories I write usually take place in the Hill Country, and since a large part of my heritage is German, I thought I'd talk about how the Germans who colonized central Texas affected Christmas customs there. And if you stick with me to the end and make a comment, you'll be entered in a drawing for my latest book HILL COUNTRY CATTLEMAN, since last month's winner never claimed her prize….:/
Germans first came to Texas in 1831, when Texas belonged to Mexico, but the movement really gained momentum in the 1840's, when the Adelsverein, whose longer name translated to the "Society for Protection of German Immigrants in Texas" assisted Germans to move to this promising land. In 1848 there was a revolution to unify Germany, and many of the German activists ended up in rocky, hilly central Texas and founded such towns as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. They brought their language with them, which gradually evolved into a dialect known as Texasdeutsch, which was widely spoken in the area until World I made all things German rather suspect.
Arguably no other nation had as much effect on how we celebrate Christmas as did Germany. From them we get the Christmas tree, which was probably proceeded by decorating fir trees in the wild and the Christmas pyramid such as the one pictured here in Fredericksburg. John O. Meusebach, the head of the Fredericksburg settlement, brought the Christmas tree to Texas even before Queen Victoria popularized it in England. From Germany we also get the custom of the Advent wreath and Calendar, and many of our beloved Christmas carols such as "Silent Night." Germans enjoyed putting together Krippenspiel or Nativity scenes, and holding Christmas markets, such as are still held in Germany today and in Fredericksburg on Thanksgiving weekend.
In German, Christmas is known as Weihnacten, and the Christmas tree the Weichnactsbaum. Christmas Eve, or Heiligabend, was really thought of as the holiday. The tree was often decorated while the children were in church. After attending church and before or after a simple meal, a bell was rung to signify the departure of the gift-giver, who was deemed to be the Christ child, or Christkind, byBescherung or gift exchange time was then held, and the children were delighted by gifts of dolls and balls, oranges and chocolates. A much more elaborate meal was held on what we think of as Christmas Day, and the Christmas tree could then be plundered of its tied-on candy and cookies by the eager children.The German-Americans also boasted the first artificial trees by dyeing turkey feathers green and wiring them together. :)
What country or countries make up your ancestral heritage? How have the customs of that land affected the way you celebrate Christmas? What dishes do you make that originated in other countries, such as German Stollen?
As I said, I am giving away a copy of my latest Love Inspired Historical, HILL COUNTRY CATTLEMAN to one lucky commenter. Please check your email and the Christian Fiction Historical Society blog's sidebar in a day or two to see if you won. As always, if you've already read this book, you can check my book list to see which other of my books you want.
Blessings, Laurie Kingery