By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Beginning this Thursday through Saturday, we will be celebrating all kinds of events in historic New Braunfels.
To begin with, at the Sophienburg, the annual St. Nicholas Abend will once again be a winner for young children and their parents. This is an old custom brought over from Germany. Here’s how it works: The children are brought to the Sophienburg by a parent or two and there they will be told the story of St. Nicholas. Suddenly St. Nick arrives and he tells them to be good (which is not a bad idea). St. Nick doesn’t look like Santa Claus in his burlap outfit. This has always been confusing to children because even the children’s songs mix Santa and St. Nick customs. Those who have practiced this tradition at home hang up a stocking on Dec. 5 and miraculously candy, fruit and nuts arrive by morning. The child then knows that they have been good. If the child has a lump of coal or a switch in the stocking, they have a short time to mend their ways before Christmas. There is a lesson of hope and forgiveness in the St. Nick story (maybe a little bribery).
Please RSVP to the Sophienburg. The cost is $5.00 a family.
The visit from St. Nick starts at 6:00 p.m. and so does another event downtown. It is Wassailfest. Although it has not been a historical event here in NB, the annual event is on its way to becoming one. The downtown is closed off to traffic, the stores are open and the wassail drink is free and everywhere people vote for their favorite wassail.
There is something fun about walking down the middle of San Antonio St. and Seguin Ave. Our wonderful downtown Christmas lights are on and music is everywhere adding to the festive atmosphere. By the way, parents, it’s a short walk from the Sophienburg to downtown.
Supposedly the first time “wassail” appearing in literature was in the 8th century poem, “Beowulf”. The word wassail was a greeting and came from Old English “waes hael” meaning “be well”. Whoever was Lord of the English manor shouted “wael hael” and the crowd shouted “drinc hael”, meaning “drink well”.
Over time, the wassail tradition changed to door to door visitation. The visitors would receive hot spiced ale in return for Christmas money.
Two wassail customs that don’t have anything to do with our Wassailfest are “Lambs Wool” and “Apple Tree” celebrations. The Lambs wool has to do with what is put in the wassail – sugar, spices, eggs, cream and pieces of toast. Supposedly the floating toast looked like the wool of lambs. At the Apple Tree celebration, the crowd would throw wassail at the tree to ensure that it would produce apples.
And then, “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor” on Saturday, Dec. 7. St. Paul Lutheran Church and the New Braunfels Conservation Society are presenting a program to the public entitled “Life in New Braunfels During World War II”. Conservation Executive Director Martha Rehler says to meet at 5:00 p.m. at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Martin on Loop 337. Grounds will be open at 4:30 for a tour of the church and cemetery, and listen to a string ensemble by the 36th Infantry Division Band, Texas Army National Guard.
Then move on to Conservation Plaza where a flag raising ceremony will take place and the 36th Infantry Division Band will play a tribute to veterans. At 7:00 p.m. the NB Gemischte Chor Harmony will sing favorite German music.
A display of items from WWII will be featured in Forke Store. A special program will feature recorded memories of the late Lorenz Bading as he was recently interviewed about the war and the 36th Division Band. He talks about his personal experiences during the war. The whole program is free of charge.
Here in New Braunfels, as in all of America, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a wake-up call to a war that had been going on in the rest of the world for at least two years. I’m speculating that German communities like NB were even more affected by WWII because most citizens were less than 100 years from that homeland. They were horrified and surprised at what was happening in Germany. In 1942, I was in the fifth grade at Lamar School. I remember asking my mother, “Am I a German?” to which she answered, “No, you are an American.” That was that.
New Braunfels went all out showing patriotism in many ways. The buying of defense bonds was one of the ways. Even school children bought 10 cent stamps and collected them in a book. We had a Service Center in New Braunfels that provided entertainment for servicemen on week-ends. It was located on the Plaza in the old Eisenberg Furniture Store that actually belonged to Harry Landa. Dances were held on the week-ends, and servicemen were welcome at all times. Upstairs were cots that the servicemen could sleep on. NB was so close to the bases in San Antonio that this center and Landa Park became favorite hang-outs.
Both adults and children helped the war effort by collecting scrap iron. Schools in Texas became part of the Junior Texas Rangers, a group responsible for the collecting. Locally the New Braunfels schools collected 322,873 pounds of scrap metal and the rural schools collected 186,711 pounds. Over 9,000 pounds alone were collected from the four farms and ranches of Albert Pfeuffer, Ernst Karbach, Millie Karbach and John Karbach. Post 179 of the American Legion gave up its cannons, machine guns, German helmets, shell cases, all of which were relics of WWI. In Comal County there were 1,491 men and women who served in the armed services. Thirty eight of them never returned.