December 27th, 2006
In the first two posts about Christmas, I remembered Christmas at home and with my dad’s family. Today I’m remembering Christmas with my mom’s family, and tomorrow — the last post on this subject, I promise — more recent Christmases.
The first thing that comes to mind about Christmas with mom’s family is Grandma’s peppernuts (pfeffernuesse to any Germans reading this). Grandma made wonderful peppernuts. And she made huge batches of them for Christmas. I remember gallon jugs being passed around.
Peppernuts are a small sweet dough, rolled out, and cut into pieces about the size of a peanut M&M, then baked. My mom has been making them, and they look like this:
In fact, I can’t really remember what sort of main dishes we used to have. Guess I had a one-track mind. I suspect that we also had some of Grandma’s famous cherry moos (rhymes with “close”).
Us kids usually were the only ones to get gifts there, but that was fine with me. It was also great to spend time with my uncles and aunts, none of which lived in the area. They were always good for some jokes, or maybe a math puzzle.
I seem to recall that Grandma and Grandpa also joined our family for our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve some years. Here’s my Grandma reading from the Bible to my brother one of those Christmases:
Grandma has always loved being around her grandchildren, and she always seemed to have plenty of time for each one of us.
Thinking of my Grandpa Klassen reminds of first of the German hymn Nun Ist Sie Erschienen (MP3 and PDF in the comments at that link). It’s still sung, in German and English, at Christmas in our church.
Grandpa was great with the harmonica. And the song I best remember him playing at is Nun Ist Sie Erschienen. I remember sitting on his lap many times listening to him play it. And I’m pretty sure it was a year-round song for him. Terah and I even had it sung at our October wedding — if it was year-round for Grandpa, that was good enough for us. It’s always special to sing the song in church.
I was going to have a picture of Grandpa with his harmonica here, but I didn’t get it ready in time. So I’ll have to describe it. Imagine a black and white picture of a gentle man, dressed conservatively, holding a harmonica in his hands. He’s looking towards it tenderly — it seems to be something important, and maybe it represented fond memories for him, too. I’ll post the photo as soon as I get a copy of it.
Back on December 1, 1990, just at the start of Christmas season, I remember the phone ringing. Dad answered, and I knew quickly that something was wrong. Grandpa had died earlier that day, while doing something he loved — visiting his children and grandchildren in western Kansas.
His funeral followed shortly. At 11, I was starting to become interested in photography, and I set up my tripod and took this picture of the church on the day of his funeral.
So many people still remember the church that day and commented that having the sanctuary all decorated for Christmas was the perfect way to remember Grandpa.
Grandma still talks about it, too. My mom and I played a piano duet arrangement of Nearer, My God, To Thee. After we finished, Pastor Epp said, “If the music in heaven is anything like that, it will be a wonderful place indeed.” He passed away not long after that, too, but Grandma still remembers that comment verbatim (and I’m sure would gently correct me if I made the tiniest of mistakes recalling it here).
In a few days, we’ll be celebrating Christmas with Grandma — and also her 92nd birthday. I bet there will be some peppernuts there.