Thursday, December 21, 2006

What if it doesn't snow on Christmas?

Last night, as we were preparing for bed, His Holiness looked up from his pillow, his eyes were blood-red and puffy, his nose was running, he had a fever and a cough and he was constipated, but instead of whimpering or crying or doing any of a number of normal things a very sick little three-year-old might do, he asked me a question. “Will Santa Claus come to Oma’s if it doesn’t snow?”

I was so surprised at his question I didn’t have a ready answer. We will be spending Christmas with his Grandmother (“Oma” in German) in the Eifel, a region of Germany known to most Germans for it’s scenic beauty and to rock climbers and mountain bikers for it’s rough terrain. It’s also a good deal higher in elevation than Cologne and the chances are slim, but possible, that we might see a little snow on the big day. I assured HH that nothing would prevent Santa from finding him, or any other good little boy or girl, wherever they might be on Christmas, even if they weren’t at home and even if it wasn’t snowing.

Like every other child in Germany HH sees images of Santa in snow-covered landscapes on television, in print advertisements and in department store window displays. There is Santa and his reindeer, all decked out in their Christmas best sailing across the crisp white countryside. It never occurred to me that he might be thinking about weather contingencies, but it seems that he has been giving the subject a great deal more thought than I imagined. It speaks to his growing up I think, to the fact that he spends most of his day now in kindergarten with other children and with other adults, and they talk about things, about Christmas and food and the potty – these are the big issues in our house right now and it shouldn’t be surprising to me that the other three and four-year-olds in the kindergarten are talking about them too.

It’s odd, experiencing Christmas in another country. If we were back in New York I’d know just what to do. On Christmas Eve I would take HH to Gramercy Park, where each year the gates to the most private of all Manhattan parks open for one night and carolers gather round and sing familiar songs in the cold night air. When I was younger and single and the neighborhood was a bit less gentrified than it is today, we would follow up our evening of holiday song with an evening of strong Martinis at the bar of Gramercy Park Hotel. Regrettably, for me at any rate, the Gramercy has been “renovated” and is now in the hands of the terminally slick.

Gone are the short Spanish barmen with disinterested eyes and stale red jackets, who delivered good cheap cocktails and bowls of bar nuts to locals and visitors alike, seven days a week for as long as I lived in New York – which was a long damn time. I would probably have taken HH into the Gramercy and ordered a water for him while I fortified myself for the walk home. At some point we would have visited the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, although traveling that far uptown for just the tree wouldn’t have justified the altitude change and I would likely have taken him over to the Oak Room Bar at the Plaza Hotel for a hamburger. He loves hamburgers and I love the Oak Room. Radio City, Lincoln Center, BAM, we would probably have sprung for one big night out with the swells. And that would be a Christmas I could understand, and one I think he would enjoy. He was too young to appreciate the only Christmas he spent in Manhattan. I did read him “Twas the Night Before Christmas” just about every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve but I don’t know if it has had any lasting impression. I like to think that his present concern for snow springs from these early days, but the adult in me (struggling as he is to get a sober word in now and then) doubts it.

No, I expect HH is drawing on his experiences here in Germany now, his compatriots at school, the little folk on TV who speak a language I still don’t understand well enough and his German kin, who sing to him and tell him stories and teach him by example about Christmas in the New Old World.

Merry Christmas!

© Berlinbound 2006


Blogger christina said...

Merry Christmas to all of you!

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing is so captivating! I love reading your blog. This post especially struck at my heart, as I often times wonder how The Boy will view holidays in light of the fact that he will grow up experiencing them in many different countries. Merry Christmas to your and your family!

3:56 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Christina ... Same to you and your ... I'm sure it will be quite special in your home.

Maria ... Thank you so much. I'm happy you enjoy reading the blog and look forward to seeing you here again.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

12:40 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Merriest of Christmasses, Richard.
It will be full of cherished memories in the making, I am sure!

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great posting, Richard! I've never been in NYC - unfortunately -, but you got me to imaginary feel the power and feeling of Christmas holidays there, as if I were actually in NYC. For me, as being born and grown up in a city that has become a 'real' metropolis in Germany/Europe in the last decade, your posting really makes me to consider to spend Christmas apart from home - and NYC would be my top-rated choice...

Merry Christmas to you, HH, and your family. I'm looking forward to your next posting, describing your experiences of a German Christmas.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Rositta said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family. My mother, who is at the end of her life, is pining for Germany. We are trying to make this, possibly her last Christmas, as German as we can here in Canada. You are a lucky family, enjoy it.

3:26 AM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Hi! Thanks for the recollection of NY at x-mas.
I'm an ex-NYer now living in Leipzig. I remember walking as a child with my parents on Christmas Eve from 21st St in Chelsea up to Rockefeller Center via 5th Ave to check out the storefront displays along the way. Once there we would skate for an hour or two and head back home shortly after midnight and find out that we must have just missed Santa.

Take care and enjoy the holiday season.


10:19 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I hope you've had a very Merry Christmas and Have a most Happy New Year!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous reslifedan said...

Happy New year! I just returned from NYC where I spent the holidays. I actually had a drink in the Gramercy Park Hotel bar, and it was expensive ($20 for a martinin)! I, too, remember it before it went all swanky. I must admit the original Picasso and Warhols are nice!

7:37 PM  

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