|Home History Culture Customs, Tradition, and Memories
Christmas in Germany in the 1940s
Volker Haufler, Electronic message to Michael M. Miller from Preetz-Schellhorn, Germany
although Christmas is now almost over, I would like to add some
memories as well, as
requested by you.
My ancestors from my father's side emigrated from Schwaben to
Southern Ukraine at
the early 19th century. However, as my father died in 1945 as
prisoner of war in
Russia when I was just one year old, I did not inherit any German-Russian
I was brought up in a smaller German university town (Marburg
in Hesse) by my mother
(later I had a very nice step-father) and my grandparents. Marburg
was of no
strategic importance and only partially damaged by bombs during
World War II.
Unfortunately, the house of my family was completely destroyed
in February 1945.
First Christmas I remember must have been in 1948. The Christmas
tree was decorated
with "Lametta" (silvery shining alufoil bands). The
gifts very poor after today's
standards: some fruits, somewhat chocolate, something to dress,
of course handmade
and out of some fabric remnants. Toys, if at all, were also handmade
grandfather, e.g. a little wooden cart. As usual in Germany, Christmas
Eve was the
most important day for us as children. My grandfather once was
usually we had the "Christkind" coming. The children
were not allowed to see the
living room after around 12 a.m. at Christmas Eve until a little
bell was ringing
somewhere in the apartment as sign that the Christkind just had
brought some gifts.
The "Bescherung" (presentation of gifts) was at around
6 p.m. after we had come from
the "Christvesper" (Christmas matins).
The meal at Christmas Eve was always very simple (as in most German
evening), we had "Heringssalat" (salad of herring).
Very common in Germany is also
"Frankfurter" with potato salad. The main and much better
meal always was on
Christmas Day, usually a goose, when we could afford it later
on. This was also the
time to meet the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins etc.
Something special was a Care parcel from USA with many food products
we normally did
not get those days. It may have arrived some days before Christmas
but was placed
under the Christmas tree. When I was between 3 and 7 years old,
"America" for me was
synonymous with a kind of wonderland with everything being bigger,
available in abundance, for reasons I did not know. This perception
was even more
nourished by my mother working in the private home of American
officers where she
was sewing clothing whilst I was playing with some American kids.
She was not payed
in money, but with precious products like (real) coffee, meat,
fabric or cigarettes
which she could exchange for basic food.
Later, of course, the Christmas presents became bigger and more
precious, but the
basic tradition with the "Christkind" we, in our family
today with our own 2 grown
up daughters, are still keeping although my wife comes from Northern
it is more common to have Father Christmas.
As I am pretty sure that some of the Haufler family (brothers
and sisters of my
grandfather) emigrated from the Ukraine / Crimea to North America,
I would be more
than happy to get in contact with some of them. May be yours newsletter
be of help.
Best wishes and a Happy New Year,
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael