90 Years of Christmas Blessings

22 Dec

My last post will filled with German traditions and a little history about the customs we still practice today.  Thanks to all of you who wrote me with stories of your own family Christmas traditions.  It’s wonderful to share your lives through the pages of my blog – it’s almost as if we’ll be together at the holidays as one big family.

The Christmases we celebrate today are quite different from the holidays I celebrated as a girl.  As you know, I grew up in Reeese, Mich.  Our family spent Christmas Eve with my Grandma Schlukebier – my maternal grandmother.  Even with 30-plus grandchildren, she found a way to give a small gift to each one of us.  Hedwig was herself one of 11 children, and knew the importance of being uniquely remembered on Christmas.  I kept every gift Grandma Schlukebier ever gave me.  As the years passed, I’ve given those gifts to my daughters Judy and Roxie.  And they’ve passed them along to their children as well.

Grandma Schluckebier also made donuts the morning of the party, enough for more than 50 people. We would drive to grandma’s house in a car with no heat, covered in horse blankets to keep warm.  So you can just imagine how much we welcomed those fresh hot treats.

Growing up in the ‘20s and ‘30s, times were tough.  Our family did not have much and the economy in Reese suffered as well.  Christmas was not lavish in our home.  Certainly not the Rockwell image you see on television today.  Our folks could not afford gifts – except maybe a pretty handkerchief.

Even the decorations were sparse.  We were treated to an artificial tabletop tree that Santa would bring each Dec 24th. One year, we caught my mother in the act of bringing the Christmas tree out of storage, blowing Santa’s cover.  My grandmother had sent us girls to the barn to feed the animals – a clever way to get us out of the house.  Unfortunately we finished too quickly.  As we were coming back in we saw the two of them carrying the tree to the table.  We quickly realized Santa had two crafty helpers – mom and grandma.

Many years later I married Tiny and I began to embrace the Zehnder holiday traditions like singing.  My father-in-law William – Tiny’s dad — played the piano and led us all in song at the homestead.

After Tiny and I became managers of Bavarian Inn Restaurant, we would alternate hosting the big family Christmas party with Eddie Zehnder, who was manager of Zehnder’s restaurant.  There would be more than 100 guests. This tradition went on for many years.

Recently when my daughter Roxie was in town to help celebrate my 90th birthday we reminisced about more of our family’s traditions.  When the children were growing up, we closed the restaurant at 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 24 – a practice we continue today.  After Tiny returned home from work he’d make a big batch of oyster stew. Then he’d proclaim, “No one can open a single present until they’ve eaten at least one oyster.” I don’t believe anyone was fond of oysters except Tiny. We also had pickled herring – a treat the family did enjoy.

The children’s program at our church — St. Lorenz – on Christmas Eve was the official beginning of our family’s Christmas celebration. After church Tiny would drive us around Frankenmuth to look at the holiday lights. The children were anxious to get home and begin opening their gifts. Sometimes Santa Claus himself would come to our home, and give peanuts and candy to the children. These Santa’s helpers were usually friends of Tiny. After the gifts were handed out, Tiny would offer Santa a frosty stein of holiday cheer – something you’d only find in Frankenmuth.  When other friends came caroling they were welcomed to the same Christmas spirit.

After my daughter Roxie married and moved to Muskegon, she would bring her family to Frankenmuth every Dec 24th, spend the night and return to Muskegon early the next day to celebrate Christmas morning at home.  I made them a family lunch to eat in the car. Every year it was the same — chicken salad sandwiches, pickles and pretzels. Roxie’s children would finish every last bite by 10:30 a.m. — only one-quarter of their way home. That custom also remains the same to this day.  I guess we really should call it “brunch.”

Christmas Day has always been reserved for working.  It is our continued honor to serve Christmas dinner to families who come to Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  We will serve about 3,000 guests on Dec. 25.  For many folks, not cooking a big holiday dinner is the best gift of all.  If you are one of those people, I’ll look forward to seeing you Christmas Day!

One final thing.  Last week I promised I’d talk a little about Christmas cookies.  As you know, Mondays are for baking, and the girls and I started our holiday baking earlier this month.  In my book, “Come Cook With Me,” I have many recipes for cookies and bars.  While they are good to eat year around, there are some “musts” we bake each Christmas.  As you can imagine, everyone has his or her favorite.  So with a family as large as ours, that means baking a lot of cookies.  At the top of the list are:  Sugar & Spice cookies, Iced Spice Bars, Grandma Nuechterlein’s Raisin cookies, Butterscotch Oatmeal bars and my personal favorite, Bavarian Inn Hello Dollies.  Each of these recipes is easy to follow, easy to bake and is a guaranteed hit with your families and holiday guests.  Here’s a secret:  Be sure to make an extra batch because they sure go quickly!

God bless you all and have a very Merry Christmas.

Auf Wiedersehen – until I see you next week!

One Response to “90 Years of Christmas Blessings”

  1. brenda December 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    i want to wish you and your family a Very Merry Christmas and a blessed new year!!!!!

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