Brrrrr! December has been so cold and snowy here in the Midwest. We have already shoveled 15.6 inches (39.6 cm) of snow at our house the past three weekends, with more snow on the way tonight. Arctic temperatures have kept us in the deep freeze.
Through it all, I have felt warm at heart,
while celebrating my December birthday with family and friends!
(Perhaps it is all those birthday candles! 🙂 )
Braving the cold or snow has always been part of my birthday fun!
Bundle up and come along…
A new annual birthday tradition began this year
with a wonderful day at the German Christmas Market.
A dear friend and I spent the afternoon visiting the Christkindlmarket at Naper Settlement.
We layered on warm sweaters, long underwear, thick socks, boots,
scarves, hats, and our warmest gloves for our adventure.
As we explored the outdoor market,
precious memories of my visits to the Karlsruher Christkindlesmarkt,
in southwest Germany, warmed my heart.
The sounds of Christmas music and the smells of Bratwurst,
Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes),
and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds filled the air.
Handblown German glass ornaments are one of my favorite memories of
Christmas in Germany.
Every Christmas, I hang a beautiful German glass ornament in our dining room window
as a reminder of that special Christmas visit.
We stood admiring these Santas, hand-carved and painted in Russia,
until our fingers and toes felt numb.
We were just fascinated as the shopkeeper explained their intricate designs.
Traditional German Nutcrackers and Incense Smokers
brought a touch of Germany to the Midwest.
We saw German sweets of all kinds, handmade pottery from Poland,
nativity scenes hand-carved in Bethlehem,
German steins, hats, teas, and Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
What a delight to visit the same Christmas store that I first visited in medieval Rothenburg!
After admiring the intricate, wooden Christmas Pyramids,
Advent calendars, and glass ornaments,
I knew exactly what I wanted to bring home as a memory of our day together.
I chose candle clips and candles for our Christmas tree,
just like the ones I brought home from my Christmas in Germany so long ago.
Those special memories always warm my heart!
It is the Christkind (Christ child) who brings the Christmas gifts
to children in many parts of Germany.
She is a young girl, with long blond curls, a white and gold gown,
a golden crown, and the wings of an angel.
During Advent, the children write letters to the Christkind,
sprinkle them with sugar,
and leave them on the windowsill.
On December 24th, German parents bring in the Christmas tree,
decorate it with colorful ornaments, and clip candles onto the branches.
They leave the window open just a bit for the Christkind angel…
and close the living room door.
It warms my heart to remember my German family gathered around the table
enjoying a wonderful Raclette dinner on Heilige Nacht (Christmas Eve).
As we laughed and talked, we suddenly heard the sound of a little bell ringing.
The children jumped for joy,
knowing that the Christkind had flown in through the window,
put all the gifts under the tree, lit the candles,
rang her bell, and flown away!
(I was just as excited as the children! 🙂 )
We all went into the living room, and held hands in a circle around the Christmas tree.
The warm memories still bring tears to my eyes…
Together we sang Stille Nacht in German (I had packed a little paper with the lyrics.)
and everyone surprised me by singing Jingle Bells in English.
The candles on the tree were quickly blown out, so that we could open our gifts.
It was a night I will treasure forever!
At the Naper Settlement Christkindlmarket, we toasted my birthday
with hot Gluhwein and warm, Bavarian pretzels!
It was an extra treat to meet a friendly woman at our table,
who is an artist from our town and a kindred spirit.
Warmed by the Gluhwein, we hurried through the Christkindlmarket one more time
in late afternoon cold, and headed for home.
What a heartwarming way to celebrate with a dear friend!
My husband and I have a wonderful tradition of celebrating my birthday together
by making memories in a small town,
all decked out for Christmas.
For this birthday, I chose the pretty, little town of Geneva, along the Fox River.
It was another frigid morning as we drove west,
singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio.
As we quickly walked hand-in-hand along the main street,
we stopped to visit the all of the festive shops in the beautiful, old houses.
The Arctic temperatures kept most of the holiday shoppers away on that Saturday.
So, we soaked in all of the quiet, friendly, holiday charm…
warm at heart.
December is such a wonderful time of year to explore Geneva.
Families braved the cold, waiting in line to visit with Santa Claus
and snuggling under blankets for carriage rides through town.
We lingered in the Geneva Antique Market,
where vintage Christmas decorations filled every booth.
After visiting all of my favorite places in Geneva, we loaded our packages into our ‘sleigh’
and headed home, as snowflakes began to fall…
warm at heart!
Heartfelt thanks dear family, friends, and blog friends for all of the
cards, songs, visits, calls, kindness, gifts, and birthday hugs.
My heart is truly warmed…
and overflowing with blessings!
I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are this weekend! ♥♥
Bring on the twinkle!
19. December ~ Edited to add… My heart is breaking as the news reaches us of today’s attack at the Christmas Market in Berlin. Our prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, all of those who suffered injuries, and the first responders who rushed in to help. I add my voice to prayers for peace in our wounded world. ♡