Christmas Traditions

Strolling past colorful displays, breathing in the aromas of roasting coffee beans and spicy stir fry and admiring collections from foreign countries Friday night during Culture Corner’s Christmas around the World event at Minnesota West, I began thinking about my family’s own traditions at Christmas.

In this melting pot that is America, my family’s roots run deep in German heritage. Well, at least the family tree says so.

You wouldn’t think it to look at our Christmas traditions, however.

There is no dill pickle ornament hidden in our family Christmas tree. There won’t be Stollen (fruited bread), wurst and sauerkraut, Weihnachtsgans (goose) or Spaetzle (noodles) served for the Christmas feast. And, while customary in Germany to open gifts on Christmas Eve, it just wasn’t permitted in the Buntjer home while my brothers and I were growing up.

Oh, we tried to make that a tradition, believe me! There were a couple of years that I recall the four of us kids being allowed to open one gift after candlelight services on Christmas Eve. The rest had to wait for Christmas morning.

The only real tradition we’ve grown up with is having oyster stew on Christmas Eve. (Yes, roll up your nose if you wish … I do the same when I hear about lutefisk!) My parents and all three of my brothers enjoy steaming bowls of oyster stew for our Buntjer family gathering. What I think is funny is that at least two of my brothers married wives who refuse to make oyster stew for them. One of them is usually in charge of making chili.

I’m not much of an oyster stew fan myself. However, ladling out some of the milk, sans oysters, and putting it in a bowl with a little pat of butter and some crackers is rather tasty. Served up with homemade buns and sliced summer sausage (a toast to our German heritage, perhaps) and it’s a Christmas Eve meal to which we can say, “Sehr Gut!”

Up until a few years ago, my Grandma Elizabeth made Pfeffernusse (German spice cookies) for Christmas gatherings. She also made Rosettes a time or two, although a little research told me those are actually a Scandinavian tradition.

Anyway, as I strolled through the exhibits, chatting with people whose roots run deep in places like Sudan, Laos, Eritrea, Norway, Denmark and Mexico, I learned a little something about tradition.

No matter where you’re from, the holiday traditions are rooted in faith, family and food. Now that’s a language we all can understand.

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten!