Haul Out The Holly

Christmas has always been very special to me.

Not the least because I grew up in a climate so cold you were thrilled if the heat in the house melted the snow enough so you could see the color of the roof to tell one house from another.

Getting in the door was another matter.

And the days just kept getting darker.

And darker.

Till afternoons at three was already time to put the lights on,

and everyone filled up on orange juice to offset the plague,

or scurvey,

or whatever,

caused by continuous cold.

And then came Christmas.

The coldest, wettest, darkest time of year.



Lights, tinsel, ribbons, the smell of cookies baking,

family heirloom ornaments on the tree,

and mysterious packages under it.

I met my husband just before Christmas one year.

I lived in a house sponsered by the university just for German speakers.

Use of any other language cost a quarter.

And since most of us didn’t know the word for ironing board,

and the lit courses didn’t discuss the name for the type of medication that cured having eaten six week old sausage by mistake,

we needed real Germans around.

And voila…

Exchange students over for a year as visiting scholars.

They got a free dinner,

we the kind of info you don’t find in a dictionary.

(In those days, there was no Wikipedia.)

And since, around the middle of December we decided to do a skit-

the twelve days of Christmas,

German style:

six naked swimmers

(in reality in bathingsuits and wrapped in towels)

two German grannies,

(buns in gray hair, heavy walking shoes, canes)

four VW’s,

played by a now very  famous topologist who hopefully won’t be humiliated if his youthful exploits come out-

hey, at least he wasn’t the nude swimmer,

and of course, since his roommate was the VW,

they pulled my husband into it to play-

a wandersmann-

a German trail hiker,

in leather knee pants.

And since,


no one in his part of Germany,

or most of the rest of Germany, for that matter,

wears long socks, leather knee pants and a plaid shirt,

with hat with goat’s beard ornament,

he came to borrow mine.


So after I explained that

only very skinny very young girls fit into such pants, especially at the  hip,

but he could borrow the long bow I was using for martial arts as his staff…

And just like that, he invited me to a Carnival celebration.

We were engaged Christmas a year later.

From that time on,

I have worked my way through college in every imaginable Christmas pageant role,

Played flute in a major cathedral in Cologne’s Bach’s Christmas Oratorio,

conducted choirs who were dressed in:

black, white, and enough jewelry to hang a Christmas tree,

reindeer hats,

Santa caps,

formal floorlength pantsuits, with divided skirts, even on the men,

and bow ties, on both men and women.

Sung Amahl and the Night Visitors,

from behind a stuffed camel,

while dressed in a shepherd’s costume,

with long white veil,

that made the policeman who stopped me on the way home for speeding ask me what order I belonged to, ma’am.

But the one thing that was most important to both my husband and I,

out of the midst of all the chaos, and darkness, and snow shoveling, and conducting huge thrown-together choirs with stagefright, and singing with over a hundred fever, and rushing to stay working, and get prepared in time for a concert while buying packages,

out of the midst of all of it,

was the one fact that meant so much to us:

no matter how dark it got,

there was always light,

and joy,

and a warm church with a lit Christmas tree,

and the love of, and in, the Christmas story

to look forward to.

We wish a blessed Christmas,

and a wonderful holiday season

to all.


copyright Dunnasead.co 2015

3 thoughts on “Haul Out The Holly

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