Frohliche Weihnachten und ein Gluckliches Neues
Ebach, Mary. "Frohliche Weihnachten und ein Gluckliches Neues Jahr!" Pierce County Tribune, 25 December 1999, 8.
The above words that greeted you during the holiday season in
a German community. Translated, it means "Merry Christmas and a
prosperous new year." If you were visiting in someone's home, this
greeting was quickly followed by the refreshing Everclear home mix!
This is just one of the traditional customs of the season.
Actually, Christmas was a very religious time and the season really
began with Advent. That is the preparation for the coming of the
Christ Child or Christkindel. In the early years of our family,
there was no Christmas tree or presents. On Christmas Eve a visitor
by the name of Christkindel came to visit. This was generally a
lady wearing a white dress and a halo on her head. She asked the
children if they had been good or bad. If they were good (and they
generally were) they received a bag of candy, nuts and an apple
or orange. If they were bad, they got a rap across the wrist. Then
there was another visitor called the Belzenickel, and this was a
man dressed in a fur or large winter coat, with a cap covering his
eyes. The kids were asked the same question, were you a good or
bad boy or girl. But he didn't hurt anyone, either. This was a forerunner
of the present day Santa Claus.
In the later years, our family did put up a tree. It was decorated
so nice and before the time that electricity came to our farm, the
tree was lighted with wax candles attached to the limbs. The trees
remained until the feast of Three Kings, which was Jan. 6. Our godparents
usually stopped by and gave us a doll or candy bag or dress or some
such gift. Our parents, too, put out some presents that had been
left by the Christkindel. We never did see him, but he sure left
some nice gifts.
The food preparation included the baking of ammonia cookies (Harschman
salz cookies). Our mother went into Baillie's and Fred Baillie sold
her some baking ammonia. He would say to her, "Oh, it's time to
bake cookies again." To this day her grandchildren call them Grandma's
cookies. Fortunately, Clara (Ebach) has the recipe and continues
this tradition. When the nieces and nephews come to visit they want
some of Grandma's cookies, and it isn't sufficient to offer one;
they take a handful. On Christmas Eve it used to be a meatless day,
so the evening meal was usually fish, potato salad and jello. Everyone
sat around and visited or sang Christmas songs. Our mother loved
to sing. Everyone then got dressed up in nice clothes and they drove
to Rugby for Midnight Mass. You had to arrive around 11:30 in order
to find a place to sit. There were 12 Ebachs, eight girls and four
boys, so we took up a lot of room. The men sat on the right side
of the church and the women on the left side. Sometimes it was very
cold and several inches of snow and the ground just creaked when
you walked or drove on it. The sky was clear, the moon was bright
and there were a million stars in the sky.
The church was always so beautifully decorated. There was a very
large Christmas decorated and lighted tree on the right side of
the altar, and on the altar itself there were many smaller trees.
In front of the altar was crib a scene with large size figures and
a lighted crib with the Baby Jesus in it. It was a must that the
parents took the children for a visit to the crib after Mass. The
choir really sang out the traditional Christmas songs and the lights
were dimmed before church. Then when Mass started the lights went
on, the bells chimed, the incense was going, the priest was in his
gold vestments and it was just breathtakingly beautiful. It was
hard to stay awake for the entire ceremony, however. After Mass,
people congregated outside and greeted each other and briefly visited,
then on home for the post midnight meal. Then it was time for ham
that had been baked in dough. This was done to preserve the juices
of the meat. More potato salad and time for wishes for a Merry Christmas
with the Everclear. Our mother served it to us and everyone had
to have a sample, and everyone drank out of the same glass. We stood
in line for our turn, and sometimes some of them would stand in
line twice, but that didn't work.
Most everyone went to the country school. Many of them went to
Spruce Hill School and some to Banner School. Of course, Christmas
was observed there too. Every year there was a Christmas program
with every child participating in some way. The proud parents all
came to see their little "stars" perform. Following the program
event, cookies and candy were distributed, then returning home for
bigger and better things.
These are more than just memories, they are customs and values
that are carried on to the next and the next generation. We must
not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.
Reprinted with permission of the Pierce County Tribune.