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Merry Christmas The favorite daytime meal on the day before Christmas consisted of Bockwurst und Kartoffelsalat (sausage and potato salad). This custom allowed the homemakers more time to concentrate on the preparation of the evening's more elaborate meal and the Bescherung (present giving).
At dusk on Christmas Eve, friends would gather and treated with Feuerzangebowle, a Pomeranian type of sweetened, spiced, and heated wine. When the guests were seated, they were served appetizers of Kock Kase mit Schwartzbrot (cooked cheese spread with dark bread), Heringe Nach Hausfrauenart"(pickled creamed herring) and Rugenwald tea sausage. The hospitality rules were more relaxed than at other times. Christmas was a time when family and very close friends celebrated together and most non-family activities were suspended for the week.
Dinner was by candlelight and began with Kirschsuppe (warm cherry soup with dumplings). The main course was Pommerscher Gansebraten (roast goose with stuffing) served with gravy, Rotkohl mit Apfeln (red cabbage with apples), and Knoedel (potato dumplings). Many families also included Blue Carp, poached in vinegar and served with horseradish and sweet whipped cream, boiled salt potatoes garnished with parsley and butter. Dessert was Schokolade Pudin (steamed chocolate pudding with hard sauce) and Klotternusse Keks cookies. Other delicacies of the season served as in-between snacks, included Christstollen (long loaves of bread filled with nuts, dried fruit, citron, and raisins), Lebkuchen (spice bars), Reisbrei (a rice pudding flavored with sweet cinnamon), and white sausage.
The goose was stuffed with vegetables rather than the bread stuffing of Americans. To prepare a Feuerzangenbowle, you need red wine, rum, oranges juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves. All lights in the room should be dimmed to provide the appropriate atmosphere. The rum-soaked sugar is lit and as the flames leap up, the sugar drips into the spiced wine.
Those who do not eat well on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons during the night, therefore Dickbauch (fat stomach) is a name given for this opportunity to eat so well and so much.
The Christmas tree, according to tradition, originated in Germany. It is believed that Martin Luther began the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home. One Christmas Eve he brought in an evergreen tree to his daughter's nursery for her to enjoy since the weather was too bad for her to go outside. He decorated the tree with candles.
The tree has a mysterious magic for the children because they are not allowed to see it until Christmas Eve. Usually the children were occupied with the Christmas Eve church service and when they arrived home the Christmas Tree appeared, usually in the parlor, that special room that was only used for special occasions. The tree was decorated with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, tinsel, family treasures and candles. The presents were placed under the tree. As the children entered this fantastic room, carols were sung, the candles lit, the Christmas story read and the gifts were opened. The Christmas tree lights and candles were essential to the Pomeranians' Christmas celebration.
According to legend, on Christmas Eve in Germany rivers turned to wine, animals spoke to each other, tree blossoms produced fruit, mountains opened up to reveal precious gems, and church bells could be heard ringing from the bottom of the sea. Of course, only the pure in heart could witness this Christmas magic. All others must content themselves with traditional German celebrating, of which there was plenty. As a matter of fact, there was so much celebrating that it had to begin on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day.
As in many other European countries, on the eve of December 6th, children placed a shoe or boot by the fireplace. During the night, St. Nicholas, hopped from house to house carrying a book of sins in which all of the misdeeds of the children were written. If they have been good, he filled the shoe or boot with delicious holiday edibles. If they have not been good, their shoe was filled with twigs.
Die Weihnachten Rose
The Christmas Rose A Christmas tradition in Pomerania, that originated in about the 12th century, a time when the populous still had not converted to Christianity and Pagan customs prevailed. It is said that the German Bishop, Otto Von Bamberg, made a visit to Stettin and converted some of the residents. Many of the newly converted Christians died because of their beliefs.
An old man who lived in a small village near Stettin, was a Christian, but kept it a secret out of fear of persecution. However, one of his neighbors betrayed him to the Pagan priests, which resulted in him being jailed and sentenced to death. The heathen priests taunted and ridiculed him, and said, "If your God is so powerful, let Him make flowers bloom here in the middle of winter," then you will be set free. The old man prayed throughout the night, but, in the morning he was led to the public hanging tree. Lo and behold, there, under the old oak tree, flowers were in full bloom. They were to become known as the "Christmas Rose." With this sign the Pomeranians accepted Christianity. It is believed that the Crossbeak, a rare bird that nests and broods in this northern area at Christmas time, had carried the seed from the south.
Listen to Leon Raether, a German teacher in Wisconsin, narrate:
All of the following were published in the book Weihnachtsgeschichten aus Pommern (Christmas Stories from Pomerania).
The poem is entitled Der Weihnachtsbaum (The Christmas Tree) by Ernst Moritz Arndt.
The story is Pommersche Weihnachtsgebrauche (Pomeranian Christmas Traditions) by Walter Borchers.
Altes Pommersches Volkslied (Old Pomeranian Folksong) – traditional.
Songs from the CD, Weihnachtlich Glanzet der Wald, by our sister group, The Pommersche Spaldeel Freistadt.
Copyright 2005. Used with permission.
The CD is available for purchase on our online store. The actual CD will have clearer sound than the sound on these links.
A Kashubian Christmas to Remember
by Peter von Pazatka Lipinsky
Peter, a member of the Pommerscher Verein, lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He says, “Part of this story is fiction, but most of the story is the way we celebrated Christmas in our house. It was the time just shortly before the end of WW II in 1945 in Koeslin, Pommern (now Koszalin).” This was first printed in the Winter, 2000, Kashubian Newsletter.
The first snowstorm of the season was covering our city with a fluffy white blanket. I was sitting by the window, watching the large snowflakes dance to the whispering sound of the wind. It was slowly getting dark and it started to snow more heavily now. On a few houses along the street, Christmas lights were being turned on, but the road itself was barely visible. Only the beam of an occasional passing car would gingerly feel its way along the street in the darkness. It was Christmas Eve, and my thoughts started to drift back a long time ago, to a little village in Pomeranian, the homeland of the Kashubs.
It was Christmas Eve 19-hundred-and-something and this was a big day for us children. Would not Santa Claus come tonight and bring us some candies and maybe a new toy, perhaps even two? Papa had gone the day before to the near-by forest and got a nice straight Christmas tree. Now Mama was busily decorating the tree with a few strands of tinsel, which had survived the previous Christmas. A few colored stars, tree and bells cut from cardboard as well as a few sugar tree ornaments rounded out the tree decorations. We knew that after Christmas, we could plunder the Christmas tree and the little sugar delicacies would be ours to enjoy. (Oh, why did we have to wait so long?) A few wax candles were sitting on different tree branches and these candles would only be lit for a very short time when we were singing “Silent Night – Holy Night”. Candles were hard to come by and these candles had to do us for another couple Christmases.
While Mama was busy with the tree, Grandmother was preparing Christmas dinner, which was usually served around 7:00 p.m. The Christmas goose was slowly being cooked to perfection, and the roasted potatoes with onions, dumplings, sliced carrots, cabbage, mashed turnips, a few parsnips were also slowly cooking away, to be ready for the Christmas feast.
Since it was at least a couple of hours until dinner, I asked my Grandmother to tell me one or two of the old fairy tales she knew and could tell like nobody else. So Grandmother said, “I will tell you a story about some very special tiny people, called the ‘Karzelkis’. But … Grandmother said, “Only a real Kashub can hear and see the Karzelkis, who live under the floor boards in Kashubian homes. The Karzelkis are also known as Dremnis and in some other parts of Kashubia as the Krosniatas. The older Karzelkis have a long white bead and usually wear a blue or green coat with golden embroidery and black boots. The young girl Karzelkis are called ‘Krosnicys’.
"When these little people celebrate a wedding or a birthday or even Christmas, they make so much of a ruckus that often you can hear them laughing and singing old Kashubian songs in the middle of the night, and carrying on until the wee hours of the morning. The Karzelkis like it when you put out a little fresh milk for them in a small dish. However, if you put the milk in half a walnut shell, then the Karzelkis know for sure that the milk is for them.”
Grandmother was going to tell us more stories, but it was time for the long awaited Christmas dinner. Mother had put out her very best and only tablecloth and the dinner table looked just perfect. The Christmas dinner was again a masterpiece of Grandmother’s cooking talent. For dessert, we had a delicious bread pudding and a baked apple with a sweet sauce.
After dinner the table was cleared off and everybody was ready now to celebrate Christmas Eve. Papa lit the few candles on the Christmas tree, and we all sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” and other Christmas carols.
It was getting late and Papa reminded us to get ready to attend midnight mass. The Church was packed to capacity and the service was about “Peace to all men”.
As we left the church, it was still snowing, but the wind had stopped blowing. It was a beautiful night and everybody was hurrying home, because while we were all at church, Santa Claus would have visited our house (or so we hoped) and had left a present for us. Sure enough, in the meantime Santa Claus did visit our house! (I never did figure out how Mama or Papa managed to get all the presents put under the tree while we were all in church together.)
The gifts were knitted socks, scarves, sweaters and wooden toys for the children. We could play with our new toys for a while, and then it was off to bed, dreaming about a wonderful Christmas. As I started to fall asleep, I could hear the wind starting to pick up again, and in the distance I was sure I could hear the laughing and singing of the little Karzelkis coming from underneath the floorboards. One of these little fellows even came up to me and pinched me in the arm, saying, “Wake up, wake up.”
I must have been sort of half asleep sitting by the window and watching the snow. As I woke up, my grandson was standing in front of me and saying, “Wake up, wake up, Grandpa, it’s time for Christmas dinner.”