Ancestral Decorations

Rauchermann Santa exhales pine incense. He came back to the US from Germany with me when I was five and a half.

After an entire childhood of wishing The Colonel would let us decorate the tree before Christmas Eve, I am grateful today that even though I didn’t get any decorations out until this week, I don’t feel late or guilty for putting ornaments on the tiny redwood and setting up some of the ancestral holiday decorations just two days before Christmas. Other kids made fun of us, those kids whose families put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving, or a week before Christmas, thought we were nuts for putting them all up on Christmas Eve and taking them all down on New Year’s Day.

Grateful that I can tune out KVNF (our great local community radio station) when Christmas mall carols get to feeling trite, and search out African Christmas music on Spotify, setting the mood for an afternoon off at last to catch the spirit and choose some decorations to put up, and grateful for Cyn who persuaded me to try Spotify. And through the magic of Spotify, landing on the German Christmas songs of my childhood. Digging way back into my past, excavating happy feelings. Happy? I’m not sure yet, but sure of feelings.

Grateful I can still bend and twist just enough to get under the stairs to the Ancestral Decorations Trunk. Choosing, once there, which of many treasures to pull out this first Christmas without two kittens. The one that’s left, for whose little life I am beyond grateful, is now mature enough to not be a threat to a few extra gewgaws around the house.

Aunt Rita’s Tree, and the one baby Nuremberg Angel that Raven didn’t eat.

Thinking of my mother and my auntie, both of whom gave me similar, and very different, gifts over the course of my life. There are crafts and art created by both of them throughout the house, but tonight, they’re here with me more immanently than usual. “Aunt Rita’s Tree” always occupied a place of prominence, was treated as a holy artifact since I was an infant, first by mom, then by me. The Colonel built it a tidy plywood box sixty years ago, where it lives for most of the year, emerging to shine brightly for only a few weeks in darkest winter. Unwrapping and finding a safe place for this relic, listening to those traditional German holiday songs my mother loved so much, thinking how little I remember of those three toddler years in Germany beyond the feelings that music evokes.

The music is bringing it back… I remember more than I thought I did. I’m grateful that I’ve learned a little bit about the world beyond the borders of this time and place, 21st Century USA; that I spent part of the Twentieth Century growing up in Germany, remember Rome and Medurodam, and learned to read at my brother’s knee in that Mannheim apartment when I was just three; reading allowed me to explore far more of the world than I ever have physically.

The Nuremberg Angel, all paper with a porcelain head, almost as old as I am, also lives in her own handmade wooden box most of the year.

3 thoughts on “Ancestral Decorations

  1. Such lovely family treasures and traditions. And it’s nice to be reminded of the original German practice of bringing the tree in on Christmas Eve. Hope you dispensed with placing lighted candles on the boughs, though! Seeing your photos warmed my heart and sparked memories. Thank you.

  2. So many feelings racing around my heart that one day I will share with you but for now, that Tree of Aunt Rita is the MOSTEST! xoxoxox

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