Christmas with the Bonhoeffers
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 to 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.
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.
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 sugar 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,