Our first Christmas season in Europe looked a little like this:
Or rather a LOT like that. We couldn't turn a corner without running into some kind of festival of lights. That's downtown Basel, Switzerland-- home to what has been called the best Christmas market in Switzerland. That's actually NOT the market, just one of the shopping streets.
Christmas market in Colmar, France --after the ice skating excursion. Very pretty and Very cold. And the lights reflecting off Colmar's "Little Venice" canal.
At home we did our usual Advent celebration-- lighting the candles, reading a story every night from The Light in the Lantern, and singing.
Several years ago we made a string of tiny felt stockings for Advent. Rather than put trinkets in them, each one holds a different holiday song printed on a tiny scroll of gold parchment paper. So each night of Advent we sing a new song together-- which if truth be told, is one of my favorite parts of the holiday. The kids love it almost as much as I do.
And the lovely Advent calendar I picked up at the Goetheanum.
In all our haste we forgot to bring our Christmas ornaments, so we had to start from scratch. the girls and I made some pinecone gnomes and cornhusk wreaths:
We also managed to forget our stockings... and funny, they don't seem to sell stockings here like they do in the States, presumably because all their "Santa" business happens on Dec. 6th for Samichlaus/St. Nikolaus Day where he leaves the goodies in children's shoes.
So we all got busy making stockings out of my linen stash that I brought from the states, a white Ikea pillowcase (seriously), some red wool yarn, and embroidery floss. the stockings are each lined with a different cotton print fabric-- though of course you can't tell in the picture. The elf pattern came from Wee wonderfuls, the girl is from a Japanese embroidery book, and the odd one is from a Klee painting. Everyone helped in different ways, including Kitty Bill who kept insisting on a robot stocking which led me to the lovely pattern.
And the holiday baking....
Bohemian Braided bread, an old family tradition, as well as strange cut-out cookies (including a robot), and the star tree cookie. I always wanted to buy the star tree cookie cutters from one of those magazines, but never got around to it. I picked up these at the grocery store here... where they sell all kinds of amazing cookie cutters.
And our nature table...
Which of course had a make-over for the holiday. From the barren first light of stones, which left the kids in a state of great expectation:
to the culmination of Advent:
On Christmas Eve all the church bells around the city started ringing at 11pm. They went off for 5-10 minutes and then sounded again at midnight. With all the noise, the girls didn't fall asleep until 1am, and Einstein and I were up until 2:30 wrapping the very last gifts and embroidering the very last stocking.
Then the strangest, loveliest thing happened. We were awakened an hour before dawn by the sound of voices rising up in song. So like the story goes, I ran to the window and threw up the sash, and there in the street below me were carolers. In the cold, dark of Christmas morning. Holding candles. And singing. It was magical and beautiful and surreal.