In the U.S., we always had an Advent wreath with three purple candles, one pink, and one white. I guess Jörn heard part of that, because he brought home six red candles (red are the most traditional in Germany), one purple, and one white. We did start with four red ones (and the white one in the middle being the unity candle from our wedding), but as they were lit at nearly every meal all week long, not even six candles were enough. By the time we got to the fourth Sunday, three of the red candles, were completely gone and a fourth one quite small, half of an old gold one had been completely used, and a second half of an old gold one was nearly gone.
Day twenty-three, Monday, December 22nd
Jörn wouldn't give any hints, and Louisa was the only other person who knew, as he'd told her so that she could decide whether to join us or not. (She did. :-) ) All I knew was that we were leaving at 5:45, in cars, and wouldn't be home until about 8:00. About an hour before we left, I suddenly guessed what we were doing and asked Jörn, who confirmed that I'd guessed correctly. It was good that I knew, because then I could (secretly) grab socks for the sockless people.
It was fun listening to the children try to figure out where we were going on the way there, especially when Lukas was sure he was right (and WAS right), and then I drove right past it. We did eventually arrive at the bowling alley, where I took exactly one photo:
I also took a couple of videos, and then the camera batteries died. (Don't turn the sound on, or if your sound IS on, you might want to turn it off: it's just bowling-alley loudness.)
I think Marie and I together might have gotten as many points as whichever person had the third lowest score, but we never really looked. It was too sad to think about. Louisa definitely was much better than all the rest of us, even the three girls with bumpers. I was so good at playing badly that more than once when I took a turn for Helen or Elisabeth because they'd lost interest during the second game, I managed a gutter ball WITH bumpers.
We had "dinner" there, hot dogs with French fries and a drink. Katie didn't want to play a second game (we hadn't intended to play a second game at all, but the manager offered us a very good deal, because of being such a large family) and just sat at a table watching, not feeling well at all. I thought maybe it was the food, since that's not a normal part of our diet at all, but by the next day it was clear that she wasn't very well. She spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday lying on the couch.
Day twenty-four, Tuesday, December 23rd
I loved Marie's clues for this, and nobody had to think long to figure them out:
For someone who really would rather do away with all gift-giving and getting, it sure took me a long time. You know the concept of the "five love languages"? "Gift-giving" is a totally foreign language for me, which I do attempt to speak, but my Greek is better. So therefore, despite all my grumbling and annoyance and not wanting to do it, in fact, BECAUSE of those, I maintain that the fact that I give any gifts at all expresses MORE love than it does from someone who ENJOYS doing that. So there.
And it took me THREE HOURS!!! At the end of that time, I had two small shopping bags full of gifts. That's because I'm in charge of the stockings, and it takes as much time to wrap an eraser as it does to wrap a big box. And for everyone, I had erasers, glue sticks, tape, pencils, pens, and other such stuff. I think the single most expensive item was about €1.50. No, I guess the socks (three pairs each) were the most expensive, but they didn't go in the stockings. The only gift I was excited (and nervous and proud and anxious) about giving didn't cost me a single cent, but it did cost me about six hours of time, but I'll get to that later.
Oh, yeah, I digress. So we were supposed to play games. We didn't.
Day twenty-five, Wednesday, December 24th
Then we finally got around to decorating the tree:
Marie and I then had fun playing Christmas carols.
After the children were in bed, Jörn put presents around the tree (he'd been the official collection point for most of the children, and Marie also put hers out, and I had a few too-big-for-stocking things, so those all went out as well, as well as the gifts that had arrived in the mail from my parents and from my brother an sister-in-law, and a couple of things from other people) and I filled the stockings.
And that concludes Advent 2014, because the next morning, the waiting for the coming of Christ's birthday was over!
Christmas morning we lit all five candles, the four Advent candles by now down to two stubs of the original six red ones, half of a beeswax one that one of the children made at least six years ago, and a just-started beeswax one also made by one of the children at least six years ago.
Our first Christmas together, Jörn was quite startled when I insisted on five candles. In German they even have a rhyme that says, "Advent, Advent, the candles burn. First one, then, two, then three, then four. If the fifth candle burns, you've slept through Christmas." Personally, I feel that if one leaves out the fifth candle, the Christ candle, one has rather missed the point of Christmas.
Opening stockings (which we do all at the same time):
Once the stockings are open, we go from youngest to oldest, choosing a present and giving it to the right person. Once more, I was surprised and pleased at how very focused every single one of the children was on GIVING: if they didn't choose a random present, they didn't ever look for one with their own name, but one that they had for someone else.
Oh, and my favorite present, the one that I was most nervous about, was well received: out of an old backpack of mine with a broken zipper, and a pair of jeans with big holes in the knees, I made Jacob a new case for his djembe:
And Marie, who had unpicked the fuzzy top from the rubbery backings of some bathmats for a friend a few weeks ago, since the friend needed only the fuzzy parts for a craft project, used the backing to make this costume for Lukas:
We only managed about two and a half rounds of passing out presents before Jacob and Marie had to leave for church for band practice, and the rest of us not much later for the church service. It was less than an hour, then we stopped at a friend's house and sang "Away in a Manger" for her, then came home and finished opening presents. This time, we remembered to light some candles on the tree. I only deemed five of them safe to light, and it not being dark out, they're not very easy to see, but they're there:
We left in a rush for Christmas dinner with friends, where we stayed the whole afternoon and into the evening, and had a very nice time and didn't take a single decent photo. Katie was much better than she had been, but was coughing non-stop the whole day. I think some other people were coughing by the end of the day, but I couldn't really keep track. Yesterday there were scattered coughs, and today (Saturday) it was definite that Helen and Elisabeth had joined the coughing party, and Katie's not completely over it. I think I'm on my way there, too, and while Marie's not coughing, she has a terrible cold.