Christmas season is here! Last night we decorated our tree. I wanted to share with you our annual tree decorating tradition. The following is a story I wrote back in 2007 for my English Comp class. This story pretty much sums up what happens every year in my house; except this year there wasn't any snow and my kids don't moan anymore!
It’s the first Saturday in December and the evergreen fragrance from the Christmas tree we picked out last night fills the air. Picking out the tree was a nightmare; my fifteen year old son, Erik, didn’t want to be there and voiced that sentiment over and over. My nine year old daughter, Heidi, complained the tree was too small. My husband, Jim, was preoccupied with a work issue and I had a headache. On top of all that, it was absolutely freezing and a wet snow was falling!
Now that the branches of the tree have fallen, our annual Christmas tree trimming tradition can begin. Included in this tradition is the making of spiced wine and roasted almonds. I am standing at the stove in my kitchen pouring two bottles of red wine into a pot. I add slices of lemon and oranges spiked with spicy cloves and a bundle of cinnamon sticks as the wine starts to simmer. I open the windows to let the cold, brisk air rush in. The evergreen scent is starting to mingle with the deep rich sweetness of sugar and cinnamon coated almonds that are roasting in the oven. Heidi comes into the kitchen and wants to know when we can start decorating the tree. I tell her just give me a few more minutes and I will be right there. She stomps out of the room angrily. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breathe and let the smells of the kitchen overtake my senses.
My mind is taking me somewhere else. I am no longer in my kitchen in Connecticut; I am in the market square of Schweinfurt, Germany. Schweinfurt was my home for six years while my husband served in the military. It’s December 1987. Jim and I are huddled closely together as we walk along the cobblestone courtyard towards the Christmas Market. The moon is shining overhead like a huge spotlight and the stars are twinkling like the lights on the wooden stands before us that are holding all sorts of goodies for the holidays. We browse the selection of goods and listen while other American soldiers and their families attempt to speak in their broken German and purchase gifts for loved ones back home in the States.
At the end of one of the rows of stands, a burly white haired man with a beer gut down to his knees is stirring a cauldron of hot spiced wine like a warlock. His clear blue eyes and bright red cheeks shine as he entices us with a cup of wine. We purchase two Styrofoam cupfuls and I relish the warmth as I wrap my hands around it. The clouds of steam swirl from the cup and the citrus and earthy spices fill my nose as the first sip of liquid fills my mouth. As the wine reaches my belly, warmth begins to glide over my body. My husband smiles because he feels it also. We share a kiss and a laugh and continue to walk carelessly and cheerfully through the crowds.
Holding hands, we approach the Christmas tree vendor and start our search for the perfect tree. We laugh and joke as we pick through the different shapes and sizes. To our delight, we find one that we both like and purchase it.
The air is heavy now with the scent of cinnamon; the smell is tempting me in its direction. We follow our noses and find our treasure. A kettle hanging above a wood lit fire contains almonds coated with sugar and cinnamon. An aged blonde haired woman wearing a smudged white apron over her grey wool coat gets a scoopful of the lightly browned nuts and places them into a paper cone for us. She thanks us for the purchase and we wish her a “Froliche Weinachten” (Merry Christmas).
We find a bench to sit on and as we eat our delicious sugary encrusted morsels we admire our Christmas tree. A light snow starts to fall around us as we relax in our surroundings. I am immersed in the pleasure of the moment and in the simplicity of the evening. I share this thought with Jim. We spend the rest of our night just sitting on the bench with flakes of white and scents of cinnamon encircling us.
I hear Heidi ask me if something is wrong and I realize my pleasant journey down memory lane has ended. I am back in my kitchen. I tell Heidi I will be there to decorate the tree in one minute. Once again, she stomps away impatiently. I yell for my son to come downstairs and help with the decorations; he comes unwillingly and moaning. The phone is ringing; I don’t answer it. I hear Heidi and Erik start fighting. I go to close the window and I see that snow has begun to fall. I take the almonds out of the oven, scoop some into a bowl and pour the spiced wine into Styrofoam cups. I call for Jim to come outside to the deck. Contently smiling, I hand him the wine and almonds. We drink our wine and eat some nuts while flakes of white and scents of cinnamon encircle us.
Come back tomorrow for the recipes for the cinnamon roasted almonds and Glühwein (hot, spiced wine).