Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunrise in Etteln, Germany. The days here are pretty short right now, sunrise is at 8:15 a.m. and sunset is at 4:15p.m. Christmas in Germany is much less commercial than it is at home. There are lots of celebrations, but all center around family and community. Most people in Germany are born and raised in the same village and very few leave. So when there is a gathering in the community, everyone knows everyone else. We had a Christmas program at Fleyenhof which was put on by the children from the local riding club (about 300 members). There was a quadrille of 12 children on horses and ponies ( which were all on the bit or if the children were too young to do that, they rode in sidereins). The picture of the pony at the top of the page was the angel who introduced each of the performances in the show. For the kids that were too young to ride, they had a quadrille of little girls on their stick horses. For the teenaged boys, they had a jumping contest, on foot, not horseback. It was quite entertaining. The boy that won jumped a fence that was set at the top of the jump standard. Impressive! And needless to say, the fellows were at the age that they loved being the center of attention. And for the grand finale, St. Nicklaus was scheduled to make a visit. They turned off all the lights in the indoor arena and all the children lined up on benches holding lit candles. It was all very formal and even a bit intimidating for the little ones. Santa arrived on foot, dressed in something that looked more like the Pope than our cheerful chubby Santa. By his side was another man dressed in a macabre black mask that is meant to punish the bad children. Now you know the secret of why Germans are so prone to following the rules. They start them out very young. The children were called up 3 at a time to be judged by Santa. He read out of a book comments on each child and their behavior (good and those needing improvement). I wonder if the parents were able to submit requests to St. Nicklaus for behavior modification prior to last night's ceremony? Fortunately, all the children received a gift at this ceremony which lasted at least 45 minutes. Christmas gifts are opened here on the evening of the 24th. Advent calendars with a piece of chocolate for each day of the month are very popular gifts for the children, as are chocolate santas the size of our Easter bunnies. Chocolate is HUGE in Germany, yet you very rarely see overweight people. I have yet to see an overweight child. The other thing that is so refreshing about Germany is that there is a wonderful sense of civility. Everyone is extremely courteous to each other, always saying please and thank you and addressing each other formally, unless invited to be on a first name basis. Everyone says hello to each other whether you know each other or not. Being punctual for an appointment is a must and German people are not rule breakers by nature. Although the interesting thing is that they can be very pushy when it comes to standing in line for something. They are not prone to chit chat or idle conversation and although you will see them smile for a reason, they view people that smile excessively as simple minded! Overall, they are very hard working, practical people that are still very steeped in tradition. It makes you realize how young and free wheeling our country is.


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