Celebrating Christmas German-style | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Celebrating Christmas German-style

Christmas is a time of tradition, joy and sharing for Peter and Margareth Friederici. The couple, married 28 years ago, have celebrated the holiday over the past two decades in South Lake Tahoe by throwing elaborate parties for neighbors, friends and co-workers, sometimes inviting as many as 100 guests.

But for Peter it is also a time of reminiscence. Some of his most cherished childhood memories are of Christmases spent with his parents and brothers and sisters in Hamburg, Germany, right after World War II.

The celebration began on the first Sunday of December, Peter recalled, with the lighting of one of the four advent wreath candles.

“The wreath symbolized eternal life,” Peter said. “Lighting the first candle kicked-off the Christmas season for us. After that we would gather around the table every night and sing songs, make Christmas decorations, bake cookies and work on gifts.”

Peter was born in 1945, the year the war ended and his earliest memories are marked by the poverty, sadness and devastation of that time.

“We had nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said, holding a small glass of cognac in his festively decorated home in Meyers. “Our Christmas presents were all handmade, second-hand or refurbished.”

This year Peter and Margareth will spend Christmas in Southern California with their daughter. Nevertheless, Peter decided to throw a “mellow” version of their famed celebrations and invited about 15 guests for a Friday night pre-holiday gathering. He also assembled a gift table just as his parents did when he was a child.

“There were six of us, three boys and three girls,” Peter said. “Each of us had our own station at the table with gifts specially for us. I would get say, a sled. Klaus would get a bicycle and Inge, the oldest, would get a flute because she was into music, and a hot water bottle because she was always cold.”

Other precious gifts included chocolate, apples, oranges and bananas – all treasured treats hard to come by in post-war Germany. But before opening the gifts, the Friedericis went to church, dressed in their Sunday best, and later, read the “Christmas story” from the bible.

“When we got home and finally got to see the gifts we would just go crazy exploring for a good hour,” Peter said. “Then my mother would fix wieners, rolls and cabbage for dinner and my father would retreat to his armchair, light a cigar and drink a glass of cognac.”

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