Combining German & American Christmas Traditions
I wanted to share with you all a message that I got from Patricia about combining German and American Christmas Traditions. She’s in a spot that I KNOW is familiar to many of you.
“I am in a real predicament with Christmas. My twins are now three and understand Christmas. Both German and because of cartoons American. We put up the tree tonight. Didn’t really give them an answer as to why. Tomorrow we go to my mothers for Christmas. Of course other family will be there with presents. I don’t know what to do. I am thinking that there will be no presents at first. We have our traditional dinner and then take the girls out to see lights while dee Weihnachtsman come and then open presents. My husband is American so of course he wants to do presents in the morning. For now I am going to tell the girls that Santa comes to America in the morning. So they will have two Santa’s. One at Oma’s and one at home. This will be a real first for me in the morning. I am hoping that maybe you could post a blog on how to handle this in the years to come or ask other families how they handle it. So confused at this point. Thank you so much. Patricia”
I don’t know if I was much help… but this is what I passed along from my experience, and the experience of other German Girls who married Americans…..
I totally understand your predicament! In our home, when I was growing up, my parents were able to use the “Santa comes early to German kids in America” line…. Then I married an American. He didn’t have any other family nearby, so there was grumbling, but he went along with my family’s way of doing things… and we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve. My kids loved this, because they got their presents before their friends (and I love not having to get up at 5 am on Christmas).
Christmas Day we all sleep in a bit, then have a special Christmas Breakfast. In the afternoon we have a dinner of Goose, Rotkohl and Klösse. German friends come to visit, and there is cake, coffee and an afternoon of Gemütlichkeit.
So, I’m afraid that doesn’t help you much.
I will share with you what my friend does. We grew up together, and her family celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family. She is German, and married an American with a HUGE family who thrives on their Christmas Traditions. They worked out a compromise. On Christmas Eve, they celebrate with Her parents.. traditional German Foods, singing, church and then the kids take a walk while the special “German Weihnachtsman” (or Christkind) comes to visit Oma’s house for them. The kids get presents from the German Weihnachtsman and from their Oma/Opa. The next morning the kids go to the husband’s family, where they get presents under the tree from the family and a few more from “Santa”. (It helps/complicates things that the family gives gifts anonymously and writes “from Santa” on every tag.)
My suggestion to you… Have your German Christmas with your mother, let her give them a gift, and gifts under the tree from the Christkind or German Santa. The kids will love the nighttime experience… then in the morning… they can open other family gifts and something else from Santa.
Remember, however you do it, the kids will love it. They will love you, and their family, and just enjoy the heck out of the tradition. Don’t worry if they don’t get piles of gifts, or have a clear story like the neighbors. You create your traditions. Even something small… like a book or chocolates… becomes special if you add some magic. If it’s any help, my daughter, who is now 20, tells me that she never felt confused by having a German Heiligabend, and plans to continue the tradition when she has a family.(In fact, all of my kids love that they got to open presents early.)
You could also consider adding other German Christmas Traditions for Kids to your celebrations – Advent Calendars, St Nicholas Tag and more…. Here’s a list of Traditions to try–> German Christmas Traditions for kids
One more thing, and I know this might spark some controversy or irritation. Your Christmas Traditions are just as important as your husband’s. If you want to make Christmas Eve a special time for you and your family, then you SHOULD. A bit of compromise is always good, but there is no reason for you to give up Heiligabend.
I hope I helped a little?
Wishing you all the best for Christmas and a Frohe Weihnachten!
Here are some books that might help.
Frohliche Weihnachten: Learning Songs & Traditions in German Book & Audio CD (Teach Me) (Teach Me Series) (German and English Edition)Oma and Me: A Christmas StoryChristmas in Germany (Christmas around the World)