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Weihnachtsmarkt and decorated trees mean Christmas in NB

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Just imagine that you are strolling through an old German village with beautiful houses and stores surrounded by the snow-covered Alps. The Christmas season has begun and shoppers are rushing around in the Marktplatz. Sounds like fun? That’s exactly what you can experience at the Sophienburg’s primary fund- raiser,Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market), on November 30 through December 2.

This year’s Weihnachtsmarkt will be in the Wursthalle and the decorating committee has been working for months to make this year’s event the most beautiful yet. The effect of the German village will be enhanced by huge murals, hand-painted by artist Gene Vandiver. Originally owned by the Symphony League of Ft. Worth, they were acquired by the Wurstfest in 2005 and the Sophienburg is going to decorate with them. Stroll along in the village and visit 55 unique vendors to do your shopping.

The traditional Santa Claus in a sleigh will be there for photographs. You can eat delicious food at Sophie’s Kaffee Haus and Prince Carl’s Wassail. Also Sophie’s Shop will move down from the hill to the Wursthalle with its glass ornaments, books, and some interesting Advent houses. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Sophienburg Museum in 2008, a calendar will be available, featuring photographs of 12 NB buildings, “then” and “now”. This affordable calendar would make a neat Christmas gift.

In the center of the dance floor will be a giant 16 ft. Christmas tree, topped by a large nutcracker. No Christmas market or celebration is complete without the traditional decorated tree. There is evidence that fir trees were decorated indoors and out in Germany in the sixteenth century to commemorate Christmas. A common story is one of Protestant Reformer Martin Luther being awed by the brilliance of the stars peeking through the snow-covered trees one evening. Wanting to share this sight with his children, he rushed home and placed candles on a fir tree.

The Pennsylvanian Germans claim the first Christmas tree in America, but NB bound emigrants claim the first tree in Texas. Prince Carl decorated an oak tree with candles on the coast at Indianola when the first settlers arrived.

In early American Colonial days, the Puritans were against any kind of Christmas decorations, including the tree. They tried hard to stamp out the “pagan mockery” of such frivolity. In 1659, the Court of Massachusetts passed a law making any observance of December 25 other than a church service a penal offence and people were fined for disobeying the law. In the 19th century when German and Irish emigrants flooded the US, the Puritan legacy was undermined by long standing traditions of these two ethnic groups.

When the emigrants settled in NB, they cut the juniper cedars as Christmas trees because they were the closest thing to their homeland firs. Decorated with candles, many a home was in danger of fire, but Martin Luther would have been proud.

Experiencing all the smells and sounds of Weihnachtsmarktwill bring back your own Christmas memories. When I think of Christmas trees, I remember my dad bringing home cedar trees. Finding one the right shape was the trick because they were never shaped like trees, more like bushes. He would work and work to get the tree to stand up straight. His hands and arms would bleed because of pesky stickers on the cedar. The cedar tree shows no mercy. Sometimes he would tie on branches to make it look like a tree. Finally the tree was ready for the lights. If one light went out, the whole string went out. Now we were back to the bleeding hands, looking for that one dead light. My mother and I didn’t care; we thought it was a work of art.

If you want to experience some old world Christmas traditions while shopping in the delightful market, come to Weihnachtsmarkt.

This 1890 photo shows Rose Lee Serdinko as she sits among toys placed around the cedar Christmas tree lit with candles.