Waiting for Christkind

Andrea Pfeiffer remembers Christmas in Germany, and even glimpsing the Christkind!

In Germany children not only look forward to Santa delivering presents, they are told that the “Christkind” (baby Jesus) gives them Christmas presents, too. “Waiting for baby Jesus” was the Christmas motto for me as a child growing up in Germany.

Usually this “waiting time” starts with the first Sunday in Advent, when we would light the first candle on our Advent wreath. It was made from fresh pine twigs, laid on the dining table.

My mum and I had baked lots of different Christmas biscuits in the weeks before, all sorted and arranged in various tins. We would sit with my grandparents, drink tea and eat these delicious biscuits. If the first snow fell on that Sunday, then the Christmas season had definitely started! (These days, seeing shop windows full of Christmas decoration in early November does feel somewhat out of place...)
Christkind - large

To help mark the wait, I usually had an Advent calendar with a little present for each of the 24 days until Christmas. It was handmade and cross-stitched by my grandmother and had little pockets which my mum would fill with small presents or chocolates. Each day I would take out one present only, taking two would have felt very wrong.

The days seemed to pass so slowly, but Christmas was clearly on its way. At school and at home we would add bits and pieces to our Christmas decoration. The Christmas markets started, and visiting - especially in the evening when all the little lights shone - seemed a magical adventure. You almost expected the Christkind to appear out of nowhere!

The 6th December was another special moment on this Advent journey to Christmas: the day when St Nicholas comes during the night and puts presents into the shoes and boots of every child. I would have to clean my boots (or wellies, you could fit more presents into them!) and leave them outside our door so “Nikolaus” could fill them with little treats overnight. Most of the time it was a tangerine, some nuts, chocolates and a small toy.

With every passing day, the excitement grew. I was blissfully unaware of all the hectic preparations occupying my parents and somehow they managed to keep the magic alive and the hard work unseen.

On Christmas Eve,the last shopping was done in the morning as shops closed at 2pm. From then on it was holiday time, nothing was open for the next 2 1/2 days and outside would be the most amazing stillness - as if everyone was holding their breath in great anticipation.

To make sure that I was out of the way and would not disturb “Christkind”, our TV set was moved to my room (a treat in itself) and children’s movies kept me entertained. In the meantime my dad would sneak in the Christmas Tree and decorate it, and my mum would prepare dinner.

One particular Christmas, I just couldn’t bear to wait any longer. “If only I could catch a glimpse at what’s going on outside my room,” I thought. I peeped through the keyhole and just as I was looking through it there was Christkind floating along our corridor. Then I heard my dad ring the little silver bell that told me that all was ready for celebration. I opened my door, walked into the living room and hoped for Christkind to greet me. The Christmas tree with beeswax candles, lovely presents and my parents, all was as it should be on this special night, but only I had seen Christkind.

To this day I am convinced that Christkind had come!