Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: 24th December – Christmas Eve

How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve is an interesting day because depending on which day it falls can affect what happens for much of the day. Unless Christmas was on a Sunday, Christmas Eve has usually been spent at work and as this was a peak admin workload period in universities it meant working flat out for a good deal of the day with little opportunity for an “early mark”. Our work Christmas party started on the stroke of midday except for the elves who set up before hand and of course the end-of-party clear up. Then a quick dash home and get into the serious business of family Christmas preparation. It was only in years when Christmas was on a Sunday, as in 2011, when the Christmas Eve preparations could be more leisurely.

Christmas Eve dinner chez Cassmob

I don’t know why but procrastination most often affected present wrapping so that would often happen on the family room floor while we listened to the Carols from the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on TV. If there was one cooking chore that was a list-minute one it would be making shortbread, and true to tradition, it’s on my list for today.

A postcard for Das Goldenes Fass, owned for 200 years by the Happ then Kunkel families, but not by the time this photo was taken, it was in other hands. However I doubt much changed over the years..

During their teenage years in high school and uni, our children worked part-time in hospitality and often seemed to have a roster on Christmas Day. Over the years we adopted the tradition of having Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve – a bit more suitable than midday on a hot summer’s day, and I think we all enjoyed the festivities leading into Christmas Day too.  It occurred to me writing this story that there’s a link between our children working Christmas Day in hospitality and the life of my ancestor George Kunkel in Bavaria as a child and young man. His family owned one of the village inns which had visitors from far and wide, so it’s quite possible that he and his family spent Christmas Day providing a wonderful meal for visitors. Some of their culinary treats included fresh pike cooked with cardamom and mustard, salmon prepared with lemon, special beer, home-made apple wine, bacon, roast pork and local wine.[i] I’m assuming that in a small village like Dorfprozelten, most of the local residents would have spent Christmas with their families and friends. Perhaps the Kunkel and Happ families had also celebrated their family Christmas on Christmas Eve? Looks like another research activity to learn more about what might have happened.

Traditionally our family’s Christmas Eve finale was attendance at midnight Mass. It always had such an atmosphere with candles sparkling through the darkness, little kids (and big ones!) yawning, and then the music throughout culminating in the rocking carols belted out by the band at the end of Mass.

[i] Veh, G. Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II, pages 193-195.

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