The Christmas Compromise

 

Moving to a different country, or as in my case, to a different continent, is an adventure. Everything here in the U.S. was new and a little bit overwhelming and Christmas was no exception. 

I felt like a little kid in the candy store, when I saw all the colorful Christmas decorations -they were everywhere at the beginning of December. I had seen Christmas markets and decorated stores in Austria and in Italy, but I had never seen houses that were decorated that much. I was in awe and couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the Holiday season would hold in store for me.

December 6th came. Where was St. Nicholas? Why didn’t he show up that day as he used to? I was in my early 20’s, surely too old to believe in Santa, but couldn’t help it. I felt disappointment.

Christmas Evening, the most important night, was no big deal here for my husband and his family, but that changed on the morning of December 25th. Filled stockings and presents were unpacked while everybody was still wearing Pj’s and robes. Strange traditions, just strange.

We ate turkey and ham. Where was my goose and my duck and where was the fish on Christmas Eve? They sipped on eggnog; I longed for hot red wine and warm Amaretto and there was a strange fruitcake instead of the Panettone and the Stollen I was used to.

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I sat down and told my new family about the traditions I grew up with. How we put up the tree on the 24th of December but left it up until January 7th, when we celebrated Epiphany. That night they heard for the first time about La Befana, the ugly witch that brings the presents on January 6th and I told them everything I knew about St. Nicholas and Krampus.

Life is about finding solutions, marriage it’s about making compromises -even if it means you might have to give something up. In our case, we didn’t give much up. We gained instead. My husband and I decided to link our traditions.

We decorate our tree a week before Christmas. St. Nicholas visits us on December 6th and Santa on December 24th. We open the presents fully dressed on Christmas Evening and leave only the stockings for Christmas Morning. We drink eggnog and hot wine. We eat Panettone and Stollen, mixed with American and Austrian cookies. Sadly, the fruitcake had to go -we just couldn’t make room for it.

Watching James Stewart in “It’s a wonderful life,” is as much part of our Holiday tradition as the European candy that I hide in the kitchen.

Our Christmas tree stays up until La Befana ¹ brought the last presents on January 6th and then, and only then…are we all happy.

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¹If you don’t know La Befana, this is her story:

La Befana is one of Italy’s oldest and most celebrated legends. Each year on January 6th  the children of Italy awaken in hope that La Befana has made a visit to their house. This is a significant day to Italians, because it marks the end of the Christmas season and the day, that the three Wise Men arrived at the manger of the Christ child. Over the years the Epiphany has been a more celebrated holiday for the children of Italy than even Christmas.

As legend has it the three Wise Men were in search of the Christ child when they decided to stop at a small house to ask for directions. Upon knocking, an old woman holding a broom opened the door slightly to see who was there. Standing at her doorstep were three colorfully dressed men, who were in need of directions to find the Christ child. The old woman was unaware of who these three men were looking for and could not point them in the right direction. Prior to the three men leaving, they kindly asked the old woman to join them on their journey. She declined because she had much housework to do. After they left she felt as though she had made a mistake and decided to go and catch up with the kind men. After many hours of searching, she could not find them. Thinking of the opportunity she had missed the old woman stopped every child to give them a small treat in hopes that one was the Christ child. Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking for the baby Jesus. She stops at each child’s house to leave those who were good treats in their stockings and those who were bad a lump of coal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “The Christmas Compromise

  1. I remember when I just didn’t understand why my college roommate referred to one of her brothers as being in a “mixed” marriage. I think they had been raised Catholic here in the US, and his spouse’s family was Greek Orthodox. Over time, and with some additional education about different faiths (what I call “flavors” of Christianity), I have started to gain some understanding of the variations across “sects” and across countries so thank you for this additional enlightenment on the subject. If you want to understand a little bit about where my confusion sprang from, you might enjoy https://hbsuefred.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/holiday-traditions-of-a-blended-faith-family/

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  2. I had a little chuckle on this one. I did it the other way round. I came unsuspecting to Switzerland thinking that Christmas would be just like the family parties we had at home in London with fun, dancing and music, general enjoyment. Yes, well it was enjoyable, but all to do with the Christkindli bringin the gifts when the kids had to leave the room and real candles on the tree and the kids doing a performance with instruments and saying verses before they got the gifts. In England we put the tree up about 2 weeks before Christmas. In Switzerland it was put up 2 hours before Christmas. It was an evening meal on 24th instead of a turkey dinner on Christmas Day. Each to his own, I stayed for 50 Chistmas, so it could not have been that bad. Mum and dad would arrive from England and mum got nervous because of the real candles. We have drei König Tag on 6th January when we take the tree and decorations away.

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    • You had the shock the other way around, how funny. Yes, the real candles and the verses. I remember the well. The bell that rung after the Christkindl had left and we were allowed to enter the room.

      I was smiling when I read your comment. Frohe Weihnachten in die Schweiz. 🙂

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  3. How beautiful to blend both traditions together… 🙂 I spent one lovely Christmas in Austria once on a holiday It was magical, and I so loved learning about your traditions..

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas with your family.. May it be filled with Love and Peace. and continue well into 2017 and beyond..

    Happy Christmas and Happy New Year..
    Love and Blessings
    Sue xxx

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  4. Since we’re a country of immigrants, even here the traditions can vary wildly between areas and even families. But some things are American, like not celebrating Dec. 6 – I’ve met very few people who do that. For us Santa Claus is just a short version of Saint Nicholas.

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  5. Your blended Christmas sounds so rich in traditions and fun to anticipate.

    One tradition we have in common is stollen. Gilles loves fruitcake and stollen is his favourite. He practically vibrates with excitement when it first hits the stores in early December 🙂

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