Journal

Christmas with the Bonhoeffers

Dietrich and Sabine--Bonhoeffer Twins

Dietrich and Sabine–Bonhoeffer Twins

Sabine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s twin sister, remembered their family’s happy Christmas Seasons before her eldest brother was conscripted into WWI in 1916:

“ On the Sundays of Advent we all assembled with her (their mother, Paula Bonhoeffer) round the long dinner table to sing Christmas carols; Papa joined us too and read from the fairy tales of Andersen . . . . Christmas Eve began with the Christmas story.  The whole family sat in a circle, including the maids in their white aprons, all solemn and full of expectations, till our mother began Bonhoeffer Family and Friends at Christmasto read . . . . She read the Christmas story with a firm, full voice, and after that she always intoned the hymn, ‘This is the day that God has made.’ . . . . The lights were now extinguished and we sang Christmas carols in the dark, until our father, who had slipped out unnoticed, had lit the candles at the manger and the tree.  Now the bell sounded, and we three small ones were allowed to go first into the Christmas room, to the candles at the tree, and there we stood and sang happily: ‘The Christmas tree is the loveliest tree.’  Only then did we look at our Christmas presents.”

Such a lovely Christmas memory!  Growing up, my family held special Christmas traditions, too.  Among my favorites were singing carols around the piano as my grandmother played, then  reading aloud the Christmas story from Luke on Christmas Eve.

It's A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life

I loved the annual watching of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas.”

I loved attending the Moravian Candle Tea in Old Salem, North Carolina and the church Christmas pageant, the services ablaze with candlelight for the singing of the last hymns, and walking home at night in the cold, those hymns still ringing, singing in my heart.Christmas candlelight

Traditional foods played a big role in our family’s life, too—like my English grandmother’s steamed plum pudding smothered in hot custard sauce, her meticulously decorated Christmas sugarChristmas fudge cookies, my mother’s delicious chocolate fudge and scrumptious apple nut cake, my father’s Surprise Cookie recipe and homemade applesauce fruitcake—and most of all, sharing these wonderful events and foods with those I loved.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories from childhood?  Do you still keep those traditions or have you added new ones?

Wishing you all the blessings and joys of this Holy Season,

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5 Comments

  • I remember going to Christmas Eve services, and the children taking part. One year I was part of the heavenly host. We five angels were barefoot, and I heard one of the girls in the choir say to her friend, quite scandalized, “They’re not wearing shoes!” (Do angels wear shoes?) I also remember it being very cold outside in Green Bay. One year my dad managed to get a gift on the edge of the roof with ribbon hanging down so it would look like Santa had gotten sloppy.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      What a great Christmas memory, Terri! I can so imagine the scene with five little barefoot angels–it sounds like something that jumped from the pages of a novel. : ) And what a sweet and fun loving dad to have created a picture so ingenious for his children! Those memories are precious. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Carrie Turansky says:

    Hi Cathy, I enjoyed reading about your Christmas memories. What rich and wonderful traditions to enjoy and pass down to a new generation. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • Mary Kowal says:

    Dear Cathy:

    I read “Saving Amelia”, & “Secrets She Kept”, wonderful. books! I’m a Houlecaust survivor – your. books touched my heart & soul, bringing back many memories. Thank you for doing that. People need to know that that part of history cannot be denied. Good luck to you…I need the courage to start writing too!

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you, Mary, for writing! I’m so glad you enjoyed “Saving Amelie” and “Secrets She Kept,” and especially to know that you are a Holocaust survivor. I’d love to hear more about your memories. What country were you in?

      Yes, I encourage you to write if that is in your heart to do so!

      God’s rich blessings for you!

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