Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas in Bremen

Image of a Christmas Pyramid with a Christmas tree in the background.Dear Gentle Reader,

Today's first posting was a bit unfocused; it reflected your humble scribe's jet lagged mind.

I had really wanted to share Christmas in Bremen (in Germany) with you. 

I thought that I was too late, and everything became a bit jumbled. OK, everything was actually already jumbled.

But, I just realized that I still can share what I wanted to share because today is only January 6th.

January 6 is Epiphany. In the Christian tradition Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the human portion of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ as a man, to mankind. 

Epiphany, among Western Christians, is sometimes called Three King's Day because the Three Kings (or the Three Wise Men or the Three Magi... call them what you will) revealed the presence of Christ's birth to a wide audience by their travels. 

(I say Western Christians because Eastern Christians, from the other side of the great divide, the Great Schism of 1054, celebrate the same day, but they celebrate the revelation of Christ to mankind through his baptism in the River Jordan.) 

(For those who care, 1054 saw Pope Leo IX of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael I (Cerularius) excommunicate each other. That would be the Great Schism separating Orthodox from non-Orthodox Christians.  We like to just call ourselves Christians if we were on the Western side of the Great Divide.)

So, today, Epiphany in the Gregorian calendar, is still a day on which I can talk about Christmas related things.

Tannebaums are what I want to talk about.

Tannenbaum is German for Christmas tree.

It is good to talk about Christmas trees in Bremen, because Bremen is where the first recorded talk of secular Christmas trees is found. 

Recorded talk is writing, and 1570 yields Guild reports from Bremen recording that a fir tree was decorated with fruits and nuts--great delicacies at the time--for the visual and gustatory benefit of the guild members' children at Christmas. 

And thus, recorded history tells us, the first secular sighting of a bona fide Christmas tree occurs. (The Germanic, then, Cathedral of Strasbourg mentions the erection of a Christmas tree in Church in its records of 1539.)

In Germany, and in your scribe's post-married household, Christmas trees are not brought inside until December 24 and they come down a week or two later.

Why so short?

Because Christmas trees have to be kept fresh.

They cannot be dry; they must remain moist and always have watered stumps.


Notice the colour distortion in the opening picture?

It repeats itself here...

Image of a German Christmas tree in Bremen lit by candles.
If you did not read the caption on the picture above (by running your mouse over the picture) then I will show you a close-up. 

Well, I will show you the close up anyway.

Blurry image of a candle burning on a Christmas tree.The colour distortion occurs because your humble scribe has not figured out how to configure the new camera to account for candle light. 

That Christmas tree, like the pyramid at the top of the post, is lit by candles.

Your humble scribe was born in Western Canada, where houses, like trees, are made of wood. 

Further, every year at Christmas, families were warned of the perils of fires started by electric light cables strung around Christmas trees.

The idea of real fire being intentionally set upon a dead and drying tree is, initially, quite alarming to a Canadian.

I have lived in the US. 

I believe that this idea of a flaming tree inside the house is equally alarming to my American cousins.

The first year your Heroine and scribe were in Canada, with a wooden tree blazing away inside the house but not in the fireplace, my Dad stood at hyper-vigilant attention with a bucket of water every time the tree was lit. 

Dad has calmed down, regarding the safety of flaming Christmas trees, considerably since then.

Remember, Bremen is also the home of Feuerzangenbowle, that burnt rum, molten sugar, spices, and red wine mixture that translates, sort of, to flaming fire tongs brew and is great to drink. 

Bremen's citizens are quite OK with fire. You should see what they do with fireworks on New Year's Eve; a good reason to retreat to Venice...

So this was what I wanted to share with you. Burning Christmas trees in Bremen.

The Europeans will think this no big deal, but I know that North Americans will be surprised.

Oops. It is almost January 7th, which means that it is time to take the Christmas tree down now.

Liturgically, Christ has been revealed. Pragmatically, those needles will be drying out and this tree is starting to get hazardous. Even in Bremen they still respect fire a little bit.



Anonymous said...

I don't know how you did it, but those captions that appear on top of the pics when you put the cursor on them are pretty cool.

As for candles on xmas trees -- people have got to be nuts! House on fire is my worst nightmare.

BTW, welcome back! I wondered what happened to ya.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Gigihawaii,

Thank you very much. They are actually on every picture (I think) that I have ever posted. But I discovered recently that no one knows about them.

To do the same, insert your picture into blogger. Then go into the "edit" mode instead of the "compose" mode.

Find your picture. You will see a section that says alt="".

If you put text into the spot between the two ""'s, then that text will show up as an alternative to blank space for people whose browsers are not configured to receive or view your embedded pictures.

If either in front or behind the alt="" section you now type in title="" and put words into the spot between the ""'s, then when someone puts their mouse over the picture, that title which you habve just typed in will pop up.

This phenomena, the title="" with the mouse-induced text over an image is called a mouseover.


You have now coded in HTML.

Pretty cool, neh?

As for the candles, I also thought they were insanely dangerous at first, but now I am hooked. They look utterly fantastic in the dark.

As to what happened to me, check out the previous post.


Anonymous said...

Mahalo for the info, Chris.

Cloudia said...

Yay! Welcome Back, S. Chris!
What a cool post. Just seeing flames on a x-mas tree gave us a scare like a horror movie or something; "Noooo!"
So glad to read you again. sounds like you both had a happy family holiday. And Da Kitty? Forgiven you yet? Glad my world's getting back to (the new) "normal."
I love reading about mutual excommunications and such, Keep it commin` Pal. Aloha means love.

Junosmom said...

Many of my neighbors, non-Catholics, quickly put away all Christmas decorations the weekend after Christmas. I am happy to put off my un-decorating, claiming that as a Catholic, it is still Christmas. I cannot take the tree down until Epiphany. Yet, here it is. Alas, I must get to work. Tomorrow.

Barbara Martin said...

I go the Orthodox route, i.e. Ukranian Christmas which isn't until today and New Years is in a week...that's when my tree comes down. It lasts because it's artificial.

My mother said when she was a little girl (1915 to 1922) her parents put up a tree in the drawing room on Christmas Eve and it stayed there until New Years Day. That tree had candles on it as per the customs my grandmother had experienced in Birmingham, England. An adult was expected to stay in the room with the Christmas tree whenever the candles were burning. The children were not allowed to be alone with the tree and its decorations or candles. Bad combination even back then.

Electric Christmas lights are not intended to be left on 24/7, only an hour or two...but there are idiots everywhere. Which is why there are Christmas tree fires.

Barbara Martin said...

I forgot to add in my previous comment that the Christmas trees during my childhood had holes punctured in their stumps before a nail attached to the tree stand was inserted. The bowl on the tree stand had to be filled daily with a mixture of water and corn syrup. The sugar mixture fed the tree keeping it relatively happy and green, ensuring the needles didn't come off due to dryness.

It's best to get an evergreen tree that has been in very cold temperatures outside as it will keep better when brought inside and thaws out. The pine scent is released as the tree thaws.

Sepiru Chris said...


You are very welcome.


Hero Pommes is still truculent about missing out on a dedicated bottle of Gaja, but I have felt his liver and noticed the Port supply dwindling... Might Pommes be the reason that live-in slips are so hard to find as you have told us?


Egad! Keep putting off that work. If there are no candles on the tree then wait a while longer.

Eventually those pesky needles come off and the tree is easier to hold, and lighter too. Plus, it is almost like getting a new carpet.


Aha, the Orthodox way. Orthodox Russians, the saviours of the Alps.

They flood in, in a week, just after the last of the (Western) New Year's revellers have finally left the mountains and returned to work. In this year's economy they will be especially welcomed even if their pecadilloes include new ways to display wealth, new even to the Western nouveau riche.

As per the corn syrup, the last time I checked, Agriculture Canada was recommending a bit of bleach instead. Bleach killed the bacteria that were attacking the trees. Sugar, whilst providing nourishment for the tree, also provided a great medium for bacteria that were then blocking the phloem for water transport and therefore hindering water absorption, not to mention water and sugar syrup absorption.

HFinally, if I recall correctly from my stint on the Prairies, I should wish you vezeloho Rizdva (веселого Різдва)!

Tschuess All