Dear Santa, define naughty

In German, the word here you might not know is ‘ungezogen’

We royally screwed up both our German & our American Christmases. It turned out alright in the end, but my plan was to use this as a dress rehearsal for the real show.

Our kid is only a year old, so although she understands ripping gifts from their wrapping which she got a lot of practise doing the last few days, the whole Christkind (Christ child) &/or Santa Claus bringing presents is still a foreign concept.

She’s small. She’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

So, was she naughty? Not exactly. She has developed a taste for refined sugar that she didn’t have before.

The other day, Miriam & I resolved to give her less sugar than she’s been mainlining during Xmas. Meanwhile, what was she doing?

Our daughter was in her crib silently planning how to obtain more sugar.

Define ‘naughty’.

God bless our dentist. She’ll have extra work now that we’re all three addicted to the stuff.

Oh well. Life goes on.

Happy second day of Christmas!

Oversharing & who’s reading anyway? Go back to your family in the other room…

Miriam, der Günter, the progeny & myself

Having been informed I overshare, I’ve decided to observe myself & perhaps modify my behaviour. The time between the years, as I’ve heard this post Christmas until Epiphany period referred to, is ideal for assessing such a situation.

How one lives one’s life is rarely easy to modify, but before you even get there, an honest appraisal of the situation is necessary. Although it’d be easy to chalk it up to cultural differences or what have you, how much one shares and what one shares about in social media might be a private choice, but the result can turn into quite the public spectacle.

We’ve had a lot of loss this year. If you’ve not been following our serial, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Miriam’s mom passed in July & while it’s been devastating to lose her so quickly & unexpectedly, at the same time it’s been inspiring to see her husband/Miriam’s father manage the memorial and his life without her.

This geezer was married to her just over 50 years & had to learn everything in the household from scratch. Watching him washing his clothes & keeping plants alive & even maintaining the cleanliness of his bathroom is a marvel. Not an exaggeration – this guy’s inspired me.

Then a few months back, I lost my dog. If I’m really blunt, Ella wasn’t the easiest with Miriam. Especially in comparison to her brother Louis, who completely adored my new wife and all of her ways.

The way Miriam loved & respected Ella, even in the face of this dog’s reticence, says everything about my wife’s character. It’s of course a grieving process, so I’ll likely be oversharing here about missing Ella. It’s kind of the point.

Which comes to the hardest one. Miriam & I got some bad news just before Christmas. It’s private & I’ve resolved not to go into detail, but let’s just say it was tough & on top of all the other difficulties this year, it felt like another hammer blow at the end of a Mahler symphony. The analogy is quite fitting, but I’m not going to say anymore.

If you see Miriam in real life or communicate with her online, please be gentle. I’m one to talk, to be candid. I should take my own damned advice.

As I regularly say here, hold your loved ones close & try to savour the time you have together. You never know what’s coming next, but mortality is always lurking in the shadows.

Merry Christmas all of you wonderful people. If you’re still reading, I’m touched that people want to know what I’ve got to say.

If you’re not reading? Well, you’re ok too. Who am I to judge?

Stealing from little baby Jesus

This is only a baby elf, but he looks malleable enough — Jesus should be even better

So is he coming, or isn’t he? Kids around the world, well the Christian &/or western world I should say, are wondering if & hoping that St. Nick makes an appearance tonight. Even in northern Germany, the little ones are waiting for the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man, literally).

He purportedly comes early enough on Xmas Eve that the kiddos in that neck of the woods can open all their gifts sometime this afternoon/evening. This is all hearsay, though. I’ve neither had children in northern Germany nor been a child there. Here in Bavaria, though, I know the drill. It’s not the Christmas man here, but instead the Christkind (Christ child) hauls all that loot to the little boys & girls. Please don’t ask me to judge this complete hogwash. I’m sorry, but I’ve got a hard enough time with the whole St. Nicolas scenario. Even if he manages Germany in the afternoon here, he can’t get to the rest of the Christian world in one night.

The little baby Jesus, on the other hand. Now that’s plausible. I’m with Ricky Bobby on this one. When I pray, I turn to the infant 👶 in swaddling clothes. I look at my baby in her childlike innocence & I think, ‘It’s gonna be a lot easier to get this one to give me cool stuff than it would’ve been with that grumpy old Santa geezer.’

Our baby is easily distracted, so I assume the deity in his smallest person form would be a piece of cake to bamboozle. This is a great idea. The more I think about it, I think this might be the best Christmas EVAH!

I’ll let you know how it goes with my Christkind heist.

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Do as I say, not as I do

Miriam & I have had a week — the good, the bad, & even a little ugly in a few choice moments.

The progeny, on the other hand, has done swimmingly. She’s already walking, albeit full toddle most of the time, and her talking makes sense, but only to other babies.

This time of year is really amazing, if you pay attention, because some people are ready for the holidays while others? Not so much.

Look around you while others are rushing round to & fro. Watch how people behave when they’re stressed.

If I’m candid, I’m exactly the same. I was furious at the Mahag guy (that’s our local VW dealer) today, & Miriam was there to try putting Humpty Dumpty back together again after he fell from the wall.

I went full tantrum, because they reminded us repeatedly of ‘our appointment’ via text. When I arrived, they suddenly acted as if they knew nothing of us & our new Autoschlüssel (key change). Oh well.

I tried rolling with the punches, so I just did some work while sitting next to a burbling brook of a baby playing next to me.

There was another 1/2 hour before it appeared anyone was interested in helping, but when they did? It was excellent service. Really.

Good job, Mahag. Thanks.

I got home, made lunch for all of us, as Miriam was in the office all morning & we NEEDED sustenance. After that, I announced that the new key didn’t even work.

I’d figured out on my way home that although the key itself was right, the remote control function that opens & closes/locks the car was non functioning. Huh…ok.

Turns out that I had a typical expat-related misunderstanding, where I told the guy I knew our spare key didn’t work, & he said to me that there was something wrong with the electrical system – that the new key wouldn’t work.

My German is good when I’m not stressed out. It’s also good when I’m not talking to Bavarians. Sometimes I think northern Germany would be easier speaking/comprehending-wise.

So here we are. We had an appointment for after Epiphany, but they heard me cursing & spitting in the background, so apparently we’ll be dealt with first thing Monday morning.

Ok, I was a jerk. To the Mahag guy & to my wife. I was nice to the baby, but if that’s the low bar I set? Being nice to babies.

Even Jeff Goldblum’s nice to babies, & he’s the worst person I know. Sara knows what he did.

Be nicer to people while they’re Xmas shopping – whether alongside you or if you’re a Spätshopper (late shopper) & you still need just a few more gifts.

Do as I say, not as I do.

are you afraid of Knecht Ruprecht? maybe you should be.

Lahikmajoe as Krampus

Years ago, someone here in Bavaria mentioned something about Knecht Ruprecht (Ruprecht the Servant). I’m often lost in my thoughts so that most of the time in such a situation I’d nod my head and smile and pretend to know what such a person was talking about. But this situation was a little bit different. I’d already been dumbfounded by something that was said, and had asked for clarification. Now I had to pay attention. Who was Knecht Ruprecht?

St Nikolaus shows up sometime in the night before the Sixth of December and leaves coins or gifts in the shoes that the children leave outside their doors. Are you paying attention? Don’t just nod your head. Does this make any sense? Here in Germany (and other parts of Europe-I’m not going to attempt to list them all) the children leave their shoes outside of their front door the evening before, and on the morning of the Sixth of December their shoes are filled with little gifts.

But at some point in the days leading up to this, a man dressed as Nikolaus comes to visit the house or the school and has a little talk with each child. this is where we get our ‘he knows when you’ve been naughty/knows when you’ve been nice‘ business. Nikolaus explains how the kid was good that year and where he might do better. Please don’t ask me how he knows this. Apparently, there’s a way that the parents pass on both the presents he pulls out of his sack, as well as the behavioural balance sheet. But when it was explained to me, the logistical details of how all this works only confused me.

The important thing is that the kid gets a little personal ‘How am I doing?‘ pep talk from the old man in the white beard. And he gets some gifts, if he was in fact good during the last year, both in this face-to-face scenario and in his above-mentioned shoes. But what if he was bad? What if the kid is a little terror? Well that’s where Knecht Ruprecht comes in.

In many places there’s the threat that if you were bad that year, Nikolaus wouldn’t give you presents. Instead you’d get switches that your parents would hit you with. Or coal. Or I don’t know what. Bad stuff. Stuff no-one wants. But in parts of Southern Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland, this punitive responsibility was given to the good Nikolaus‘ servant, who’s called Knecht Ruprecht. In other places he’s called Krampus. I looked at tons of photos of representations of Krampus (he has quite a following on the web), but there were incredibly convincing threats against using those photos elsewhere. I’ve chosen to simply link to Krampus.com.

Living in a similar but different culture is a funny dance sometimes. A dance alternating between thinking you know exactly what they’re talking about, when you don’t, and being completely at a loss what they’re talking about, when it’s really not that different from what you’re used to. I got used to the idea of Nikolaus coming at the beginning of December, but when I finally understood what the purpose of Knecht Ruprecht was, I was truly impressed.

Here Nikolaus gets to do the positive, uplifting part of the whole procedure complete with gifts and pep talk, while he farms out the literal dirty work to this unfortunate Ruprecht slouch. What a deal. And even better? In this culture, St Nick‘s work is done for the rest of the holidays.

A few little toys, some candy or fruit in each child’s shoes and he can sit back and relax for the rest of the season. Who brings them  their gifts at Christmas? I’ll leave that for another post. It’s too much to get into at this point. All you need to know at this point is that it’s not Nikolaus. He’s earned his relaxing Christmastime.