Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Rituals 2010

In 2009, the dream of spending New Year’s Eve on the beach was realized. It was something to watch the fireworks along the shore while a big band, a long buffet table and the resort people entertains us.

This year, we are back into our mixture of Philippine-German New Year’s Eve rituals.

But first I have an inspiration and decided to add another ritual early this morning. Since the girls are old enough to hold responsibilities at home; I told them that we need to tidy up and clean our house before the year ends because that would mean a clean and tidy house all year round -- although both of them mumbled and told me 'you dont have to repeat that.' I saw that they have started sorting out their things and have cleaned up their corners, even though they are still in their pajamas! Arent I clever?

Then girls gave me suggestions on what kind of rounded fruits they wanted to have on our table. But first, I have to answer this, ‘why do we need only the rounded ones?’

I informed them that in the Philippines, rounded fruits are always on the table when the New Year comes because they are supposed to bring good fortune. As is wearing clothes with that are dotted or with circular patterns, loading pockets and wallets with coins, creating loud noises (that would include the fireworks), leaving doors and windows open to let good fortunes in, and if you wish to grow taller – start jumping when the clock strikes midnight. Plus, it is always best to have the whole family at home because it would mean keeping the family one the whole year through.

In Germany, the rituals woes good fortune, too.

Although the Opa is not here anymore to bring us the giant pretzel, the chimney sweeper figures, the clover plants, the lady bug chocolates and the marzipan pigs; my husband and I decided to continue the tradition.

Of course, we might watch the comedy skit Dinner for One when and if the girls would allow us. And we have already lined up some table fireworks and the much awaited Bleigissen, the kits could be brought in most stores; the ritual which is done when a candle is lit and small chunks of lead are melted in a spoon held over the candle. The molten lead is then quickly poured into a bucket of cold water where it hardens and a form would be determined. The shape of the lead would determine the future of the person for the year to come.

Our sparkling wine is being chilled out in the snow. Though we wont have the traditional fondue or raclette, there would be finger foods, cold (sparkling wine, liquor) and warm drinks (gl├╝hwein, cacao and tea) to keep us up and awake until midnight!

As usual, we would try to take a nap with the girls; but if not, we would let them sleep until late and would shake them awake a few minutes before midnight.

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Das Christkind Kommt (The Christ Child Comes)

In Germany, Santa Claus or St. Nicholas arrives every December 6, bearing gifts. Therefore, German kids wait for the Christkind (Christ Child) to bring the gifts for Christmas.

What is the Christkind? It is a Christmas figure developed by church reformer Martin Luther in the 16th century; in anticipation of the coming of Christ. Christkind or Christ child, is a representation of Jesus as a child. Traditions have expanded the Christkind role in certain parts of Germany, Austria, and other countries nearby. Today, towns may elect a teen girl to play the Christ child for several weeks during the Christmas season; dressed as a winged blonde teenage girl, usually bedecked in white and gold. The angelic symbol has been particularly revived in place like Nuremburg, Germany, since the end of World War II. One tradition that dates back centuries is the christkindlesmarkt, a Christmas market held in various towns each year.

My girls cannot wait for das Christkind to come. Because our tradition is: the Christmas tree would not have any gifts under it until the Christmas Eve, after das Christkind has visited us.

What we do is go to church together. After the mass, the girls and their Papa would go for a stroll while I am allowed to go home to help the Christ Child to carry the gifts and place them under the Christmas tree. The girls would be too excited and would usually beg to go home with me; but we tell them the surprise would be better -- which always is!

Oh, just last night IC came to me in bed and whispered, 'Mama, please tell das Christkind to write my name on the gifts in block letters so I could read them clearly.' Sweet girl!

But before the girls would be allowed to open their gifts; there would be singing and poems especially prepared for das Christkind; and then Christmas dinner would be served. I am sure today would be a great day!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oma's Memories

Today is Oma's (Grandma) birthday.

Since the girls are opening their advents calendar, they know what day it is (the 21st); and because we wanted them to remember, we told them that it is also Oma's birthday.

We dont want them to forget. They know that Oma is already in heaven; and when Opa died last month, we realized that they are now old enough to understand loosing someone.

But what surprised us is that they have the intense need to take souveniers; to preserve memories; to remember.

Take for instance our Christmas tree, they are full of Oma and Opa's Christmas items.

And almost daily, there is a mention of Oma.

Every time they ask me to spread butter on their bread, they would always tell me that Oma does it perfectly -- Oma tends to use more butter. The butter would be thick and you wont see any bread corners!

After eating fruits, they would remind me that Oma always said it is bad to drink something or else they would have a stomachache.

They love using Oma's pink and lila apron when helping in the kitchen, it made them feel better, (unfortunately, made them know better than me!) with the household.

Once every week, they demand to have Oma's Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce with 'Krakale' on top. 'Krakale' is homemade croutons. It is a good thing I asked Oma to teach me how to do it way, way before. It has always been a favorite but we havent written down the recipe, we had to memorize it.

Christmas time is always baking time with Oma. One thing we dont miss baking is 'buttergebackenes' (butter cookies); this time, we had to search the internet for the recipe. The recipe from Oma is still in one of the boxes, somewhere.

Oh, the girls have kept the bottle of perfumes they found in Oma's house. They spray them on sometimes because they wanted to smell like Oma. They remember how Oma loves to give them a quick spray once in while during visits.

What about Oma's clothes and shoes? Of course, they have kept one or two of them, too. They want to look so elegant like Oma, they said. Oma loves to dress up and she dont miss her weekly salon visits; the girls are simply fascinated! Some of Oma's accessories and knick-knacks they have kept as souvenirs, too.

Although Oma's in heaven, her memories live. And the girls savor them with glee.

Happy Birthday, dear Oma!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Christmas Tree of Memories

Our Christmas tree is up.

At first, my husband wanted to pass the Christmas season without a Christmas tree (I think it is too much for him just weeks after Opa's death). But the girls wanted a tree, and of course, I wanted one, too.

After a short negotiation, we agreed to have a small tree; we nodded in skipping the mistletoe and grabbed some window lights.

But what about the decor for our Christmas tree? We havent really settled down yet and most of our things are still in the boxes; and buying new ones doesnt seem practical as we have loads of them buried in some of those boxes.

Finding those decors would be out priority indeed. And yet... you know what the first things we saw as we were sorting out the empty house of Opa? The Christmas decors collected for years by Opa and Oma!

The girls were thrilled because some of those Christmas balls and figurines were their favorites -- in fact, they remembered that they have extracted a promise from their grandparents that they would only be allowed to bring those home when they wont be needing them anymore. They did try most Christmas, to beg for one item but Oma's answer would always be, 'you could always come to us and you would see your favorite things.'

MC also looked in frenzy for Opa's Christmas pyramid; she told Opa before that she wanted to have the pyramid when Opa doesnt want it anymore. After days of searching, we found it.

Although we were all a bit disappointed because the pyramid needs some repair; the girls decided to just place it under the Christmas tree because as they said 'this is our Christmas tree of memories.' While busy hanging the balls, the figurines, the bells, the glitter strands; the girls reminisced on how Opa and Oma's Christmas tree always seem to be filled with colors. They love it that now we have our Christmas tree of colors and memories.

A Christmas Pyramid (German: Weihnachtspyramide) is a Christmas decoration that has its roots in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany but has become popular throughout the country. It is suggested that the Christmas pyramid is a predecessor of the Christmas tree. It is a kind of Carousel with several levels some depicting Christian motifs, such as angels or manger scenes, and others with more secular motifs such as mountain-folk, forests, and other scenes from the everyday life of people in the Erzgebirge. The spinning motion of the pyramids is traditionally achieved with the help of candles whose rising heat spins a propeller above. Generally Christmas pyramids are made of wood and based on four- to eight-sided platforms with a long pole in the middle serving as the axle to which the entire apparatus tapers above and which supports any further platforms. Inside in a glass or ceramic support is a driveshaft on to which at least one platform is attached. The figures, which stand on the platforms are also traditionally made of wood.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advents Calendar 2010

December 01, the traditional countdown for Christmas started with the opening of the first window of the advents calendar.

And I realized just how time changes.

When before, it would usually take me the whole eleven months before December to collect, prepare and create the girls' advents calendar; now it took only a day.

No, they dont want me to buy 24 surprises (48 actually) to be placed inside calendar.
No, they dont want me to create my own design again.

They have already decided. They wanted a playmobil advents calendar.
Yet I still asked, 'Should I change the packaging so that it wont be in the box?'

Their answer was, 'No Mama, the playmobil calendar is good enough as it is.'

I thanked them for sparing me the work; but honestly, I missed the exciting chance to collect the 48 items. And I admit that I miss being creative for my girls.

What I did is create a Christmassy corner and planted their playmobil advents calendar. It made them happy, me, too!

But wait, it turned out; it's a role reverse.

My girls were the ones secretly collecting, preparing and creating our advents calendar! I didnt realize the meaning of their long absence from our side. And those words: 'please knock before entering our room; please dont look on our table if you must enter our room.'

Yes, they are working on our advents kalendar. But, they excused themselves as they were not able to finish it on the first day of December, nor on the second day, nor on the third day,....

My husband and I told them to just go ahead and work on it leisurely. It would be fun to open more windows in one day after all!

They did finish the calendar today :-D

Friday, December 10, 2010

And MC's Nine!

Dear MC,

Today you turned nine. And let me tell you what happened when you were eight...

A year before you were still emotionally charged with the changes happening around you. The trip to the Philippines where everything's strange and new; but exciting yet frightening and threatening.

You experienced how the typhoon Ondoy flooded our house and saw how all our things floated. You were with me when we watched another typhoon bringing strong wind enough for all the trees around us to break. You kept vigil when there were no electricity for two days; and there were no water for a day.

You had a bit of difficulty with the environment and the new friends and the new school; but with the help of everbody around you; especially the family, the new friends and the school, and our househelp and the friendly neighborhood -- everything turned around with joy though with some caution.

It was in that school that you proudly received your Junior Certificate for Swimming after jumping three feet from the temporary jumping board, which is the rooftop on your school's poolside! Though you admitted, you almost didnt do it; and you did, you closed your eyes before jumping and then, jumped three times more, wow!The pool and the swimming lessons at school were definitely the hit for you.

You didnt want to leave the Philippines because the school there offers warm food. Plus, you could always go swimming anyday! You love the beach, too.

With your classmates, you got interested in Facebook but learned later it wasnt for you.

You also got comfortable with sleep overs; especially with Rosa, your new found best friend. You had friends sleeping over with us, and you were able to enjoy a few sleep overs in other friend's houses, too.

You go around the village confidently with your bike. You had pets. The birds that died one after the other, who made you cry. But I am proud because you took care of them personally -- feeding and cleaning their cages.

Then you got a mixed-breed dog, Candy, that you loved so much. Candy who you agreed to give up to a friend because we explained everything about the difficulty of bringing him with us to Germany, and you cried for him, too. I remember you were a bit frightened of him and yet you always offer to walk Candy. And you learned to wash him, to feed him, to play with him comfortably.

You also discovered you love lumpiang shanghai, siomai and rice with hotdog. That you could also eat fish and shrimps best than pork and beef. You also learned to appreciate spinach, peas and lettuce already! You hated them before, you know! Yet you missed picking fruits and climbing on trees in opa's garden.

You hate shopping and would rather stay at home than go for long drives. You would rather choose comfort than being beautiful. Barefoot is best for you.

You would have wanted any kind of portable games but would rather buy other toys than give a lot of money for one game. You learned to tell time and for that you choose a Hello Kitty wristwatch, in black with small dots of pink -- the choice of color suprised us, too.

You helped in the household chores, even though we have a housemaid. And when the housemaid is off duty, you accept your duty with pride. And back in Germany, you owed up to the cleaning of the bathroom, not the toilet seat of course :-D

You hated math, we always fought while learning, but in the end; with the right rhtymn, you are slowly being comfortable about it. You have also started reading for me at bedtime, instead of me reading for you.

As always, you love to talk about everything during bedtime. You ask very interesting questions which makes me think and learn more and be creative with my answers, too.

You also had your first communion with another close friend Erika, and your first confession. Your teacher and the priest; together with family and closest friends joined us in your chosen restaurant to celebrate. You invited your friends from Germany, unfortunately, all of them said Manila is too far away. Papa gave you a mobile phone that day, without with approval. But you were using the phone with respect and even learned more English words because of 'texting.'

You still love Spartacus, although you have a crush on the Jonas brother. You love watching Barbie series and hates it that they translate the songs into German because then you cannot sing along.

You sang the German version of Happy Birthday during a village party and you received a gift for your effort. (I didnt know you would go up that stage yet you did and I almost cried!!!)

You always think of the Opa. And was sad when you cannot talk to him properly over the phone. And was worried when he was hospitalized. And was shocked during your visit to him. And you cried when he died. And you bravely viewed his body. And was present during his funeral. You have a certain strenght in you.

Yet you also tell me of your fears -- you want to stay in the same neighborhood, you want to stay in the same school, you want to be with something familiar. Yet you are not afraid to nose around adventure; though it would take you time to decide when plunging in.

After 15 months in Manila, you understand and could speak a little Tagalog and I am really proud of that. You have mastered the English language, and have not forgotten your German.

In the beach of Huahin, Thailand you left a message in a bottle, would you receive any response at all?

During the visit to the Christmas market lately, you told us that your body cannot take a carousel ride anymore because you get headaches.

I know a lot about you because you love to talk. In fact, even if you are in one your tantrums, you could still talk a mile.

You are kind. You cannot resist opening your windows to beggars and street kids. You are careful, too. Taking time to sweeping a space with your eyes for fear of leaving anything. You notice a lot of things, too -- small, big, unnecessary and you share them to us.

I just hope you wont stop talking to us; being a wonderful sister to IC (I know, sometimes you cannot resist arguing and fighting with each other); being a wonderful daughter... although it was this past year that you were clinging more on your Papa than with me, but I understand that, too. He needed your warmth more, right?

I know you have still a problem with Math; to be frank with you, I still do, too. But we could solve that together, I just hope you would learn to ask for a break instead of crying and shouting and screaming. But you did promise you wont have any dramas while learning. I am crossing my fingers. Let me tell you this, I enjoy learning the German language with you and keeping up with my numbers, too.

For your birthday dinner, you requested spinach, fish chips and potatoes. We would enjoy that while listening to you again and again excitedly recounting how your day, your special day, went.

My darling MC, happy birthday. You are loved, very much!

Monday, December 6, 2010

St.Nicholas Day 2010

The girls are wondering if St. Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) is coming today.

Although they have accepted that St. Nikolaus is just a normal man in a costume; they are still hopeful ro find a glimpse of him. The excitement didnt dim just because they realize someone is only playing a role.

It has been a tradition that they meet St. Nicholas personally to receive their gifts. But this year, we dont have the time to prepare and the energy to really work on it. So we just thought of something else; which would be great for them, too.

We already informed them that St. Nicholas wont be able to personally come,  but that they would definitely get their gifts. This time, it would be a game, they need to find the gifts themselves. That made the girls more excited, a treasure hunt! I am glad they forgot their disappointed.

The night before, IC cant sleep and was just tumbling around, MC's a little bit out of the weather so she's already in bed but cannot sleep because of IC's excited chatter. When finally it was quiet on their side, I slipped out of bed and scattered Christmas chocolates around the house and placed their gifts in not-so-hard-to-find-places.

This morning, they were both up and ready for the treasure hunt. You could hear IC's squeals of delight, MC was taking it slowly. What tickled me was when they opened our house door and there were more gifts for them (Those were surprise gifts for the girls from our landlord)! IC cant help herself and shouted with glee.

I guess our St. Nicholas Day is a success!

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

IC Talks About Opa

The day after Opa's funeral, I fetched IC after school. As usual, I asked her about her day on our way home. She informed me that she told everybody about what happened.

Her own words:
Opa was in a box sorrounded by flowers. Everybody was singing for him.
And then they carried the box and pushed it until we reached Oma's grave.
The men laid the box inside the hole.
I was the first one in the line. I was allowed to shovel soil in the hole where Opa's box is.
Then we waited for all the people and we went to the cafe for some snacks.
And she excitedly added, 'I also told them that the piece of cake I have for school today? That was from the cafe yesterday.'

To me she said, ' you know what mama, we are lucky. Now we have two angels watching over us -- first the oma and now the opa.'

MC, learning about 'the box' reacted by saying 'that is not just a box; that is a special box.'