Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

'twas christmas...

'Twas the weeks before Christmas when all through Deutschland,

The sweet smell of roasted almonds and hot wine were at hand

In every big and small town, it’s Weihnachtsmarkt time,
The magical holiday markets, that are oh so fine

So narrow and cute, the most famous in Rüdesheim, 
Is the Drosselgass lane packed plum-full at Christmastime

Rüdesheim am Rhein 
Handcarved candleholders and vintage ornaments,

Children’s tin toys and gifts all a-sortiment

Carolers a-caroling, chestnuts a-roasting, 
glüwein a-simmering, all are a-mosying

Further up, the Rhine’s wide banks,
Is a markt layered in lights, beneath the dome of Mainz

In its village of Christmas, the Weihnachtsdorf,

The Meenzer all gather in barrels for warmth

There is a treat so special, so totally delish, 

The lines are so long for this applesauce, potato dish

Across the river from Mainz, in the city of Wiesbaden,
Is the Shooting Star Market, that's just so amazin’

Giant lit stars, like huge blooming flowers,
Dance in the night sky like fantastic light showers

Away from the river in a tucked-away village, 
Is a market so special, it’s a ritual pilgrimage

Its motto is fairytale, but no Disney no Grimm,
More magic and quaint, on an artist’s whim

Handcrafters, potters, glass blowers and knitters,
All sell their wares amidst wine family villas

Through narrow lanes of timber-framed houses,
With warm chocolate or wine mugs one wanders and browses

Children and couples and families and puppies,
Love the Christmas markets, even gen x-ers and yuppies

If its medieval you're after then to Bingen you'll go, 
Where old-timey food, and drink freely flow

Bingen am Rhein
Now it’s the day of Christmas, I wish you a merry night
Filled with love, friends and family, and a baby’s sweet light.


Monday, December 15, 2014

the story about a christmas tree.

Recently I got to know a tree. I mean, it has been there where it has stood for years, 47 years to be exact, but I hadn’t really been aware of it. Truth be told, I’m not the most observant person. So even a huge tree sometimes goes unnoticed.

This particular tree was planted by great guy’s parents beside their house, in front of their dining room window, back in 1967. The father had bought the little bundle of evergreen, roots and all, on a dark December evening to be the family’s first Christmas tree in their newly finished home. Great guy was just three-years-old and his sister four, as they decorated the little tree with white lights and ornaments in their living room on Christmas Eve. The tree’s first big job: providing Christmas joy to two little children who were waiting for the Christchild to deliver presents, and filling a house with the scent and hope of Christmas. A few weeks later, the father plopped the tree into the earth beside the house. There it stood and grew, alone and faithful, for decades, not really doing much except bothering the neighbours the taller it became.

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. 

  And that of course is the meaning of Christmas. We are never alone.
  Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly indifferent.
  For this is still the time God chooses” -Taylor Caldwell

Not many people have the gift of waiting like an evergreen does. During the four weeks of Advent, whether we light a candle each week and reflect on the meaning of Christmas or not, most people at this time are waiting more eagerly than throughout the rest of the year. Children wait for Christmas presents, parents wait for children to come home or guests to arrive, or we just anxiously wait for a break from work or school. We wait for Christmas to arrive; Christmas parties, Christmas cards, Christmas concerts, Christmas meals, Christmas Eve.

But what exactly is the virtue in waiting?

Is it to be grateful for what we have and to be at peace in the stillness of waiting?

Is it to hope; to know that there is something magical coming (Christmas, love, new shoes, heaven) and to believe in that…living with our minds and one foot already in the future?

Is the point how we wait; to wait with grace and with action – to work diligently and with love towards that what we are waiting for?

Or is the point of waiting the opportunity to take the time to reflect on who we are, with what we have, among those around us?

Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things, bundled into one big Christmas gift for us.

Personally, I like the waiting of the evergreen. Its work and purpose is unremarkable. It’s huge, but quiet and doesn’t make a big deal about all that it does for its neighbours and its tenants. It provides shelter, food, warmth, support, decoration, beauty with no comment. Through storms and wind and rain and cold. No comment. It’s just there, reliable like the bestest friend. Sure, I’m romanticizing a big tree. I know that it could fall on a house, that its roots can cause a whole bunch of problems, that pinecones and squirrels can be big pains in the butt, but it’s Christmas! I’m going to romanticize the virtues of this particular beautiful tree, just because I can.

This tree touched me. Well, more specifically, I touched it. Its many coloured rings from where it was cut from its stump, the soft needles from the very tip of its 17 metres as it lay beside me. This tree’s steady patience was remarkable. It diligently did all a tree should do in its neighbourhood, for forty-seven years.

And in the end it became a Christmas tree again. A really big Christmas tree.

One early morning at the end of November, city workers arrived at a house high above the Rhine, with a mighty crane and a John Deere tractor. They cut and lifted the tree over the houses and laid it down onto a trailer. 

The neighbours came out to watch as the massive branches swept alongside the low stone walls on each side of the narrow street, even saving some of the tree's smaller twigs.

Then slowly and very carefully the tractor pulled the tree down the hill, through the city streets and into the town square. 

Then it was pulled upright again, inserted into the ground and decorated with lights, brightly wrapped presents and basketball-sized golden ornaments.

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing other's loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas. -W. C. Jones

A few evenings later, the father and ms. marion christened their tree with a bottle of sekt, as they sat on a bench in the square. People gathered to take in the new Christmassy sight, while the fruity scent of hot mulled wine wafted from the winestand underneath the tree’s wide branches. Now the tree will stand in this place, bringing smiles to every passerby and a place to gather and meet friends, until the new year. Its entire life the tree waited and worked and was ready.

Do whatever comes your way as well as you can. Think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and other things that are interesting. Put a good deal of thought into happiness that you are able to give. -Eleanor Roosevelt

P.S. Only in Deutschland would there be cognac offered to the city workers at 8am on tree removal day! Cheers!

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