The Christmas season has long been significant in German-speaking culture. This speaker, from Kiel, Manitowoc County, north of Milwaukee, shares her memories of how her family celebrated the holiday in her youth. Even though the language has receded in formerly German-speaking communities in Wisconsin such as Kiel, cultural traditions, especially certain foods, endure to the present.
Dialect: Wisconsin High German, Wisconsin German Dialects
Location: Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Tell us about Christmas when you were a child.
Our Christmas in my youth was very much after the fashion as it was in Germany. We had a Christmas tree, and a little Christ Child was on the tree. My grandmother baked Pfeffernuss cookies with holes, which were then hung on the tree. Then she took nuts and decorated them with wool or colored paper, and these were hung on the tree. And then she usually hung small apples and when the cranberries came along, she hung them on the tree also. But that was in later years. And under our tree were the presents. And on my side there was always one or two dolls, I always loved dolls. And we celebrated Christmas in the evening, and my grandparents came and stayed with us overnight, and then we celebrated until 12 o’clock. At that point “Merry Christmas” was said, and then we were called into the dining room and in there was hot chocolate for the children, coffee with cream for the parents. And then there was Christmas Stollen (bread), Pfeffernuss cookies, and usually Springele. And that was our Christmas celebration.