By Johna Till Johnson
“I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore,” I explained to friends. As I mentioned in a previous post, it was too hard after Vlad died.
It wasn’t just that Vlad loved Christmas. He loved it in such a particular way, with carols (the old-fashioned ones), mulled wine or cider, tasty cookies and candy, and decorations that bordered on the excessive: White lights and colored lights and candles… and tinsel (gold and silver).. and ornaments of all shapes and sizes.
How could I ever recreate the experience? Why would I even try? It would only remind me of everything that was gone….
The universe works in mysterious ways.
“Can we have an American Christmas tree?” my German visitor asked.
I certainly wouldn’t have predicted the arrival of a German visitor, much less a 16-year-old girl who loved, loved, loved Christmas and was ecstatic when we put up the wreath. After we put up the wreath, a tree was the logical next step, so of course I agreed.
But what did she mean by “American” tree?
You guessed it: White lights and colored lights… and gold and silver tinsel… lots and lots of ornaments… and candles!
She was over the moon when we added the tinsel. Apparently they didn’t use it at home, despite the fact that tinsel is actually German: It was invented in Nuremberg in 1610. (Fun fact: What Americans call “tinsel” is, properly speaking, “lametta”.)
And if that weren’t enough, both the candles and the candleholders that Vlad and I used were imported from Germany.
But it was still a very American tree!
About those carols? And the mulled cider? And the tasty treats? Well, her sister, mother, and grandmother paid us a visit (from Germany!) So a few nights before Christmas, we gathered around the tree, sipped cider, ate Christmas cookies, and sang carols (in English and German). My visitor’s mother is a professional soprano and the whole family has excellent voices… so you can imagine the joyous sound!
The culmination of the evening was the candle lighting (with a brand-new fire extinguisher and a bucket of water handy).
This month, after I returned from abroad, I carefully washed the tree stand and packed it and the ornaments away…For next year.