Count Catula

First of all let me say I'm sorry for not wishing you a Happy New Year yet. You know how it is, life got in the way. So here I am, very late. A Happy New Year!

Now I want to show you some amazing footage from Bran Castle, also known as Dracula's Castle.
Seems as if the castle has a new owner, and I got an exclusive picture of him. I don't know, there is something odd about him, but I can't quite put the finger on it. Wait ... are those cat ears and a tail??

Picture of Bran Castle by Dobre Cezar on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 ro)


Boxing Day - The twenty-sixth door

Here in Germany we just call it the 1st and 2nd Christmas Day, but in some countries of the Commonwealth the 26th is called Boxing Day.
I had heard the name long before the Internet existed, but never bothered to look it up. I have to admit, however, that I never thought of "boxes" although that would have been logical around Christmas. I always had boxing on my mind which may not be that wrong anymore today because I read that nowadays it's a big shopping holiday with price reductions in those countries, and we know how people are with big sales! ;-)

Originally, Boxing Day seems to have been about boxes although - as I have mentioned before - sometimes the exact origin is somewhere hidden in the past. The term was first used in Victorian times.

Image by user15245033 on Freepik

It may be about the alms boxes put up in churches for donations which were opened on this day to distribute the money among the poor.
It may be about servants who didn't get the 25th off as they had to wait on their employers celebrating Christmas, but who got gifts on the 26th and had the day off to celebrate their own Christmas with the family.
And it was an occasion to give a bonus to service people or tradesmen as a thank for good work throughout the year. Nowadays, donations are usually collected during the days leading up to Christmas and bonuses are given before Christmas as well.

The 26th is also Saint Stephen's Day. Saint Stephen, remembered as the first Christian martyr, is also the patron saint of horses (and more), so Boxing Day has also become a day of sporting events like horse races, foxhunting (nothing sporting about that in my opinion), and rugby.


This is the last day of the advent calendar and I will probably not back here before the New Year.
Thank you if you have been following me through these 26 days, I hope you had a little fun.
Now let me wish you that the days after Christmas will be peaceful ones for you, too. Take care and behave yourselves! ;-)


Merry Christmas - The twenty-fifth door

Merry Christmas!

As usual on the 25th, I'm taking a break, but don't want to miss to wish you a wonderful day, no matter if you celebrate Christmas or not, if you are alone or celebrate with your family, wherever you are in the world.

For the first advent calendar on this blog, I had "packed" a virtual box into which I put everything I thought was really important. Looking at it now, these things become more and more important to me as fewer and fewer people have them. I'll also add some that had been missing then.
Health, love, peace, friendship, hope, understanding and good communication, enough food and water, a safe roof above the head, laughter, creativity, and a planet surviving despite the things we have done and are still doing to it.

There's more, no doubt, so you are welcome to pack your own good wishes into that box.
Even if we can't have it delivered by a parcel service, we ourselves can help to deliver some of it in real in our daily lives.

P.S. The advent calendar has one more door tomorrow.


Christingle - The twenty-fourth door

As you know, here in Germany we start celebrating in the evening on Christmas Eve which is a big relief for the children as it means that they also get their gifts then.
In the advent calendars I have done before I usually took a break on this day (and gave you one ;-)), but today I want to tell you about a tradition that has started in 1747 in Germany where it is not commonly known while it gained popularity in the UK in 1968 - the Christingle. No worries, I'll explain what I mean.

Opinions differ about where the word has come from, but the history is quite clear. In 1747, a minister of the Moravian Church, Johannes de Watteville, gave each child a beeswax candle with a red ribbon at the Christmas service to make them think about Jesus as the light of the world. The tradition of the candle, for example with a red ruff or green embellishment, lives on in the church, not just given to the children anymore, but also the grownups. Outside of the church, the tradition is not known in this way in Germany, as far as I know.

In Britain, however, the tradition changed with the first Church of England Christingle service in Lincoln Cathedral in 1968 where Christingles in a new form were used to raise funds for The Children's Society. By now, thousands of Christingle services are held in mostly British churches each year (in Germany for example as German-British services).

This is how the Christingle looks there - a cross is cut into the top of an orange symbolizing the world, the red ribbon around the orange is for the blood of Jesus, a candle representing Jesus as the light of the world is stuck inside (often with some tin foil to hold it better and to catch the wax), the cocktail sticks on four sides stand for the four seasons or the four corners of the world, the sweets for God's creations.

Picture by Andy / Andrew Fogg on Flickr

To me it's a rather unusual tradition (especially the sweets), but it's also quite fascinating to see how a tradition can come to life and change over time.
And it's still changing. Some people add cloves for the scent which of course reminds of orange pomanders. Also for safety reasons, some churches use glowsticks now or it has been suggested to use battery-operated candles, just like for the Lucia crown.
What's your first impression of the Christingle?

For further reading:
Clare Spencer: Christingle: The tradition that only got going in the 1960s (BBC Magazine Monitor)
What is Christingle? (on Twinkl)
James Cooper: The history of Christingles (on the site Why Christmas)


Heiliwog - The twenty-third door

Let's go and get some water, shall we? Not just any water, however. Holy water or how it is called in the town of Endingen in Germany's Black Forest "heiliwog".

I heard the tale goes like this.
A girl's mother was very sick. At night the girl had a dream and a voice told her to go to one of the town's fountains at midnight on Christmas Eve and fill her jug with the running water, but only during the twelve chimes of the church clock because then the water would turn into holy water.
The girl did what had been told her and when her mother drank the water, she regained her health.

This custom is still alive today, people gather at the fountains on Christmas Eve after church to fetch their "heiliwog" during the twelve chimes.
The first sip is taken right away, wishes for a merry Christmas are exchanged, the rest of the water is taken home.
At home, this blessing is spoken in dialect "Heiliwog, Gottes Gob, Glick ins Hüs, Unglick nüss!" which means "Heiliwog, God's gift, luck into the house, misfortune out!"

I couldn't find out how old exactly this custom is, but it says very, very old and you can imagine it is. Isn't it lovely how these customs keep on living?

SWR documentary "Weihnachten auf dem Land - Erinnerungen aus dem Südwesten" (Christmas in the countryside - Memories from the Southwest)
Schwarzwald aktuell - "G'schichtle 111: Endingen: An Heiligabend wird's Wasser heilig
" (Little story 111: Endingen: On Christmas Eve, the water becomes holy)


We are waiting for the Christ Child - The twenty-second door

Today let me tell you about a figure that is quite well known in Germany, the Christ Child.
When I was a child, it was a tradition that the younger children in my family visited my grandmother on Christmas Eve after the tree had been decorated. Of course the reason was that we had to be out of the way of preparations for the evening, from cleaning to cooking. My grandmother had to deal with our impatience growing by the minute and the excitement when the phone call came that we could come home now. A popular TV program called "We are waiting for the Christ Child" helped with keeping us entertained, but I also remember board games that couldn't really catch my attention, though.

Who is the Christ Child?
Martin Luther and other reformers rejected the idea of venerating saints, so in the 16th century Luther introduced the Christ Child as a gift bringer instead of Saint Nicholas. Interestingly, the tradition lives on in the more Catholic regions of South Germany while in the North that is more Protestant the Christ Child isn't necessarily known at all. The gift bringer there is the "Weihnachtsmann" which literally translates to "Christmas Man", the German name for Santa Claus.

I doubt that I was the only child wondering how baby Jesus was able to carry all the gifts, but over time the connection of the Christ Child and Jesus became more and more unclear, anyway.
I don't remember if someone had told me it was baby Jesus or if that was my own idea. For others the Christ Child is actually an angel like figure that is usually portrayed with a halo, wings, and golden locks.
As a matter of fact, my sister still remembers how we were allowed into the living room and the window was still open because "the Christ Child had just flown away", and how she went to the window first hoping she'd still catch a glimpse of it! She was convinced it was an angel.
My younger brother, on the other hand, remembers the window being closed loudly in order to confirm the Christ Child had just left before we got let into the room. He, too, believed in an angel.

I guess no one told me that because when I visited the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt many years ago, I was completely surprised by the Christ Child being a young lady!
Had I even been celebrating with the family? ;-)

Christ Child in the 1st edition of the "Struwwelpeter" (1845)


Antique and vintage Christmas ornaments - The twenty-first door

There is no end to what you can hang or put on a Christmas tree.
My oldest ornaments are two tiny baubles that I gave to my grandmother for Christmas as a child, more than 50 years ago. She had a small artificial tree with colored lights on her TV (the good old time of huge TV sets ;-)). One of the baubles has lost its hanger a long time ago, but because of the cats they don't go on my tree, anyway.
I also have some Snoopy Christmas baubles left from the set we got for the first Christmas in our own flat. That was more than 30 years ago, so they are vintage as well.

These baubles may be of emotional value, but they are just simple baubles.
What did people put on their trees in the past? Let's look at a few things, and no, the Christmas pickle won't be one of them.

In the old days, Christmas trees were often decorated with edible things, like apples, sugar treats, walnuts painted in gold, but over time other ornaments were added.

Have you ever heard of Dresden cardboard ornaments?
Since the 70s of the 19th century these embossed cardboard ornaments were made in the Dresden region by cottage workers in a variety of shapes, from stars or cars to exotic animals.
The cardboard was dampened, then embossed, covered with metal foil and sometimes painted with gelatine. There were one-sided pieces, but also pieces put together from two embossed parts, some of them shaped to be even three-dimensional.
While you can still get Dresden cardboard today, antique ornaments are very much sought after and not easy to find.

Steamer from Dresdner Pappe around 1880 (Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, CC-BY SA 3.0)

Another material that was used for different ornaments was cotton. The little cotton mushrooms are still popular today and you can even make them yourself, but of course there were also snowmen, Santas, fruit, animals, and more, from pressed or spun cotton, more or less elaborate.

I have also mentioned Leonic wires in a previous post. Leonic wires are thin copper wires, gold or silver plated and twisted into a spiral shape. They were used in different ways, for example in decorative ribbons, but also Christmas ornaments. The name "Leonic" possibly comes from the city of Lyon.
The craft of using Leonic wires in Christmas ornaments has been become less and less popular, but hasn't died out completely yet. Here you can find a German video showing a lady from Bavaria making golden stars at home.

Famous are of course the Gablonz ornaments. In the mid-19th century glassmakers in Jablonec began making hollow glass beads. The industry kept developing new ideas and techinques like lining the glass with silver on the inside which makes colors on the outside shine even more. Small hollow glass beads in different shapes were strung with wire and combined with other glass decorations for the most amazing creations.
On Flickr, I found this picture with pieces from an Austrian Christmas exhibition. Just look at that lobster!

Picture by Taurabus on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I could keep going and going, but it's so easy to get lost in pictures and texts, and still you have to come to an end eventually.
Let me finish this with a video about a lady who has been collecting Christmas ornaments for more than 40 years and shows them in a Christmas museum in Austria (Weihnachtsmuseum Harrachstal). Even if you don't understand German, I think you will enjoy this little glimpse into her collection.

More information:
Dresden at The Ornament
Tinseltown at The Vintage Christmas Company
Antique bohemian beaded Christmas decorations ~ 1870 - 1940. Area of Jablonec nad Nisou / Gablonz at the Gablonz Collection