Who wants three consecutive days of Christmas? Or a more acurate question: What kid doesn't want three days of Christmas? I was surprised to find out that here in Germany there are essentially three different parts to Christmas. The first is Christmas Eve (Heilige Abend) where families attend church services, sing christmas songs, watch movies, eat together, and of course open Christmas presents. My Christmas Eve started with a relaxed morning with visiting neighbors and chatting with church friends before the service. I went to watch the Krippenspiel at the church, where kids reenact the birth of Jesus. Afterwards, I and a few from the town band played in the Heilige Abend church service. When I came back, I was surprised to find that my guest mother had put up a blanket over the window that looks into the living room. She told me that the Christkind (Santa) could come to deliver presents at any time during the day, and that we aren't allowed go into the livingroom until it was dark. After we had eaten, my guest family and I opened up Christmas presents. I wrote each of them a letter and madethem each a collage of the pictures we had taken together. I had never felt so close to my new home or family, and I'm not sure any amount or combination of words can truly express how at home I had felt on that day.
The good plates and delicious food were brought out on the next two days, which are called the first and second days of Christmas. This is a time to spend with family relaxing at home, or meeting up with extended family. I think overall, my favorite memory from the first day of Christmas was being able to introduce my family back home to my new family here. I translated the conversations between them, and it was an incredible world colliding experience! My guest family was so excited, that they even brought all the instruments downstairs so that we could play American Christmas songs for them over the phone :). It meant a lot to both my families to be able to meet and talk to eachother in such a way. I knew that while I was here I would be making connections, but I didn't realize how far these connections would stretch. I hadn't seen just how much love and thankfulness can stretch between continents.
New Years Eve was a blast with the family and friends! Everyone came over to eat, play games, and reign in the new year. We ate an interesting buffet set-up type food called Raclette that can be compared to a bake your own pizza grill. Afterwards, we all went into the living room for the tradition of watching "dinner for one", which is in English, on television. Fireworks are big tradition for the New Year, and can practically be seen in every town big or small in Germany. We lit our own few beforehand so that we could be able to watch the big ones over the town from the comfort of our upstairs window. A few years ago I wouldn't have ever thought I would be celebrating Christmas or the turn of a year in Germany! This program has given me the chance to better myself and education while also placing me in a family where I could feel at home. It's hard to believe that my year here is almost halfway done, but here's to making the second half count!