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Catholic Activity: A Russian German Christmas

Sister Mary Eloise Johannes describes the Christmas customs of the Russian Germans in Kansas.

DIRECTIONS

In reviewing religious and family customs, at what more significant time of year could we begin than with the birth of our Lord? Preparation is made for Christmas during the four weeks of Advent by abstinence from amusements, and by the recitation of additional prayers. The German custom in connection with the Christ-Kindlein, the Christ Child, was popular with the Russian Germans for about fifty years after they went to Ellis County, and is still retained by some individual families. On Christmas eve the children waited for Christ-Kindlein who was to bring them presents and good things to eat. Finally, a bell was heard tinkling at the door and a lady dressed in white, with a blue girdle and with veiled face, appeared as the herald of the Christ-Kindlein. She entered the room with the greeting, "Gelobt sei Jesus Christus" (praised be Jesus Christ). She inquired for the youngest child and asked him to say a prayer. Then she inquired about the conduct of the older children and punished them if they had misbehaved during the past year. Finally, she threw nuts on the floor and as the children scrambled for them she disappeared, promising to return the next year. This custom has been supplanted in great part by the traditional American Santa Claus.

After the children had seen the herald of the Christ Child the younger families, following a custom practiced in the family of the Czar of Russia, met in groups in the home of the parents or grandparents and settled any disagreements which might have arisen during the past year. Any debts contracted between the different members of the family were paid by the father. With old grievances forgotten and old debts paid, the entire family went to Midnight Mass.

Activity Source: Your Home, A Church in Miniature by Compiled by The Family Life Bureau in the early 1950s, The Neumann Press, Long Prairie, Minnesota, 1994

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