Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas, 2018

Candle and ornaments

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!

The American tree in all her glory

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.

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Park Avenue Christmas Tree Lighting

Light in darkness

By Johna Till Johnson

In December 2016,  Vlad’s best friend Dan came to visit.

Their friendship dated back to the beginning of graduate school. Now it was a lifetime ago. A lifetime that for one of them would soon be over.

I can’t remember why, but Dan and I went out one dark evening to get something. We had to cross Park Avenue. But as we came up to the street, we saw it was crowded with people. There was no traffic.

Voices filled the air, and we realized they were singing… Christmas carols.

People singing Christmas carols! On Park Avenue!

Dan and I turned to each other, delight and wonder in our eyes. Who knew that in cosmopolitan New York City, such a thing could happen?

We stayed with the crowd and sang for a while, savoring the moment’s sweetness. Despite everything that was happening, there was light in darkness.

For a couple of years, that memory remained isolated.

I wondered, but did not know, why one dark December night there would be people on Park Avenue singing Christmas carols. It remained a mystery. But it was enough that it happened.

Life resumed.

This December a small contingent of us from St. Francis de Sales Catholic church were invited to the Christmas party at Brick Church, the Presbyterian church a few blocks away…on Park Avenue.

After the Christmas party, there would be the annual lighting of the trees on Park Avenue. With caroling.

Oh!

Now it all became clear. And a new memory was created. Light in darkness, yes. And also laughter, and cookies, and lemonade, and homemade Christmas tree ornaments.

And caroling on Park Avenue.

(Click on any picture to enlarge it, and scroll through.)

 

The Return of Christmas

Ornaments

By Johna Till Johnson

I didn’t celebrate Christmas after Vlad died. It was too hard. He loved it so much.

But when you have a visitor, a 16-year-old girl from Germany whose favorite holiday is Christmas and whose face lights up with glee at the mere thought of it…the situation calls for re-evaluation.

We attended the Christmas party at Brick Church, which included lemonade, cookies, and do-it-yourself Christmas ornament creation.

Clara made two ornaments.

But.. where to put them? We had no tree, and no plans to get one.

Now, it’s true that we’d agreed to get a wreath. So step one: Buy wreath, and decorate it. Clara affixed bells to bows, and added brass angels (repurposed napkin holders).

Step two: The tree.

Stay tuned!

Clara and Wreath

 

A Last Hurrah for the Christmas Tree

By Vladimir Brezina

Christmas tree lit

Yes, we’re late, as usual.

According to Wikipedia,

Both setting up and taking down a Christmas tree are associated with specific dates. Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve (24 December) or, in the traditions celebrating Christmas Eve rather than the first day of Christmas, 23 December, and then removed the day after Twelfth Night (5 January); to have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck.

We did manage to get our Christmas tree decorated in time for Christmas, albeit at the last possible moment. However, we missed the 6th January date for taking it down—but only by a few days, so we hope the bad luck will let us off this year with just a warning. We lit the tree for the last time a couple of days ago—

Click on any photo to start slideshow:

Farewell Christmas Tree

By Vladimir Brezina
Photos by Daniel Kalman

A couple of days ago, we lit the candles on our Christmas tree for the last time before taking the tree down…

Farewell Christmas tree 1
Farewell Christmas tree 2
Farewell Christmas tree 3

These photos were taken by our friend Dan, who was visiting us for a few days.

Christmas, 2014

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Our 2014 Christmas treeMaybe it’s because we spent last Christmas on the waters of the Florida Everglades. Or maybe it’s because this year has held more than the usual vicissitudes. For whatever reason, this year we found ourselves focused intently on the traditional trappings and rituals: A live tree, with real candles. A wreath, with ribbons and a bell. Roast goose, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. Christmas carols.

And they were wonderful: As the sun set on Christmas Eve, the apartment filled with the scent of roasting goose (overpowering the fresh fragrance of pine). Dinner that night was magical, with light glittering everywhere, and the sound of Christmas carols on the air.

Johna's favorite ornamentChristmas Day, we slept late, then spent a splendid several hours opening gifts. Okay, more like a few minutes doing the actual opening—but since most of the gifts were books (and most of the remainder was food), we spent a lazy afternoon listening to music, reading, and nibbling cookies. On Boxing Day, we did the official tree-candle lighting (complete with obligatory stand-by bucket of water and fire extinguisher).

All the trappings were there, and the rituals were most satisfactorily observed.  But even more than the trappings and decorations, what resonated most with us was the meaning of Christmas: light in darkness, hope for better times to come.

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Merry Christmas!

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Merry Christmas!(Johna enjoying our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of roast goose, red cabbage, and mashed potatoes…)

Merry Christmas to all our readers!!