When we first decided to reward the two boys with a holiday to Germany to visit my sister, our intention was to return in time for Aaron’s secondary one school registration scheduled on 22 December. This was met with a howl of protest from my sister, ‘How can you come all the way and not spend Christmas with us? Just call the school. Since Aaron has already been admitted, I’m sure there’ll not be a problem.’ But other than Aaron’s registration to consider, I had another concern. I did not want to disappoint my two Aunts who have been planning for Christmas dinner for the past three decades. Some members of the extended family had decided on their own plans last year and that had disappointed the rest of the family by their actions. I didn’t want to add to that. And then there was the questions of Mike taking such long leave. Mike was surprisingly easy about extending our holidays by another week. The school was just as supportive. ‘Don’t worry about Aaron’s registration. Go and enjoy your holidays,’ the kind lady from the school replied. My sister was ecstatic, and my aunts understanding. And so, we were to spend Christmas in Germany, the first time spending Christmas away.
Christmas Eve is a big event for most Germans. On our return trip from Bavaria on 23 December, the Autobahn was heavy with traffic. Everyone was driving home to spend Christmas with love ones. On Christmas Eve, Sis and I had some last-minute shopping to do (yes, looking for more stollens, this time for Mom). At noon, Frank went off to pick his parents and the food from the catering company, which his parents had generously offered to pay. The Albrecht kids were excited about the number of presents under the tree, the number having increased mysteriously overnight.
Frank brought the food and his parents at two. The elderly couple was high in spirit, just as eagerly anticipating the party that night. The merry atmosphere rose another notch with a round of champagne. We busied ourselves chatting and organizing the food. We also skyped with the family in Singapore, who had decided to continue having the Christmas party without us (Bravo!), and Andreas in Beijing.
Dinner was heated up at six and ready by seven. The main menu at Christmas in Germany is goose. Rather than ordering a whole goose, Oma decided that everyone should have the best part, the thighs, accompanied by poach pear, potato dumpling and red kraut, with a side of feldsalad.
The kids had a choice of schnitzel with Swabian noodles.
The feldsalad, a specialty found only in winter, was refreshing and I prefered it with balsamic cream than the dressing provided by the caterer.
Everyone loved the goose, not unlike Teochew braised goose, was braised until brown in gravy and then warmed in the oven. The thigh was tender and aromatic. The tangy red kraut was just the right accompaniment. The potato dumpling, mashed with flour, and pressed into a ball, tasted better than those we had in restaurants.
Ivan and Aaron had the privilege of eating from both adult and kid’s buffet – goose first, followed by schnitzel with noodles.
It was only after dinner, when we were preparing dessert that to Opa’s horror, he realised that he had completely forgotten the poach pears, a side dish for the goose. We assured him it’s perfectly okay. We shall eat it for dessert. Over the another continent, we were told Aunt E’s poach pear was so popular they did not have enough for second round.
Ivan loved the apple crumble, spiced with cinnamon powder and nuts. I love the ameretto creme, which I thought went well with the poach pear.
After dinner, it was present time. Ivan and Aaron had already received some of their presents prior to Christmas – tickets to Bayern Munich game from Uncle Frank, and Euros to spend from Aunt Jiang Yue and Uncle Min. Still, they were delighted with the Bayern Munich Jerseys and T-shirts from Oma and Grandma respectively. The Albrecht kids were happy with their presents (of course lah), especially when they found out they had more than the rest of the family, as Grandma had also brought gifts from Uncle Min and Aunt Wei for them.
In the midst of all the gift exchanges, Adeline and Frank tried hard to catch up with the translations of German and English. Oma became emotional when she recalled the happy Christmases she spent with the Singapore family. She had thought it would be the last she saw of Mom, and never imagined she would spend another Christmas with Mom, especially in Germany. Tears started flowing, until Frank exclaimed, ‘I can’t translate anymore, or I shall cry too.’
Tears of joy, from the union and reunion of two families on two different continents, is a touching scene which we shall always treasure and remember whenever Christmas is here.