The official part of Christmas is over – visiting relatives left, the big dinner is eaten, all the presents are exchanged. And for the first time in many years it was a really happy holiday for me: neither did the stress prior to Christmas Eve get too much to handle, nor did anything happen which threw me off balance during the celebration.
It was the first time my parents would officially have my husband over; they had met before, but never longer than for just a few minutes. Since my parents do not speak English and he does not know enough German yet, they cannot really talk without a translator, which is part of the reason why this was only happening now, but in the end it went really well.
My niece, who comes to visit us quite often and is not bothered by the limitations of her school-English, helped bridge the first few minutes of shyness, and my former brother-in-law can converse in English as well (my sister had it in school for a couple of years, but never became an actual active speaker), so there were no awkward silences. That was what I had worried about the most; I knew everyone would be friendly and civil to one another, but was afraid that it might turn into a strenuous affair. And while for my husband it was all about meeting people he did not really know and wanting to leave a good impression, it was also an unusual and new situation for me because I never before brought any girl- or boyfriend over to meet my parents, ever! Fortunately, the whole evening was a success.
We’d spent the morning running errands, and in the afternoon my sister, her ex-husband, my husband and I went to watch my niece in a nativity play. None of us is religious and I personally have strong reservations towards the Catholic Church as an organisation, but it was only a lay-service for the neighbourhood and my niece loves playing theatre, and in years past it also proved a good opportunity to get out of my mother’s feet for a while. This year, she barked a bit, but did not bite anyone.
Afterwards, I went to help with the preparations for dinner. On the menu were: freshly squeezed mandarin-orange juice with lemon balm leaves as starter; coronation chicken as first course; the main course was pork filet with Roquefort-sauce, potato gratin and French beans; as dessert we had banoffee pie – all home-made. (For any British reader this might sound somewhat ordinary, but I can assure you that for Germans, there’s an exotic element to most of these dishes as they are not common here at all.) At five o’ clock everything was ready and I went to change into nicer attire and to get my husband.
Since in Germany presents are traditionally exchanged in the evening of December the 24th, we took a break after the main course. My niece was the only child of the group and she likes to draw out the whole ceremony to keep the thrill of suspension alive, so in my family one gift at a time gets unwrapped, meaning that it takes at least an hour until everyone’s finished. My husband and I mainly got practical presents, but given our age and financial situation, we could really appreciate them. Eventually, we returned to the dining table for dessert, and finally just sat together on the sofa for talking and watching my niece try out her presents. At nine o’ clock, we bid the rest adieu: mainly because the cheese-based sauce made my lactose intolerance kick in, but also because I felt that after four hours, my husband could use a break.
On Christmas Day, my aunt and grandmother came over for coffee in the afternoon (to my parents’, that is), and with their departure, the official part of Christmas ended. December 25th and 26th are both public holidays in Germany, and in my family, the latter is reserved for laziness. You sleep in, eat leftovers or meals which do not require a lot of preparation, go for a walk to get some fresh air and a little bit of exercise for your legs (mine start hurting if I sit around too much – they get rather stiff quickly as a result of my inability to relax physically), and otherwise do whatever you want: watch TV, read, play a computer game… Considering the fact that I need a lot more time for recharging my batteries than the average person does, I really appreciate this opportunity for relaxation after a busy and exciting start into the holidays.