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About This Blog

This blog is for anyone interested in raising their children in a foreign language--meaning a language which neither of the parents speak natively.
We have used the approach where both parents speak the target foreign language (in our case, German) to the children. Neither of us is a native German speaker, yet we have spoken German in our home for the past 20 years and have 8 German speaking children. In this blog, we hope to share our successes, our lessons learned and a few of the insights that we've gained along the way.

Bilingualism Blesses our Christmas!

What a wonderful Christmas we had! Today, the kids are back in school and the Christmas decorations are being put away. I didn't blog at all over the holidays, because Christmas time is family time in our home. My husband always takes at least half of his vacation time at Christmas. He loves it because there are no projects, no trips, no business...just lots of time at home with family. And we had a marvelous time together!! Our college girl was home, we got to talk to our missionary kids on Skype and I spent minimal time at stores (thank you Amazon) and though I didn't blog over the holidays, I still thought a lot about how much our family has been blessed by our decision to to raise our children bilingually. I can't even begin to imagine Christmas without all of our German traditions. I have such fond memories of the few Christmases that I spent in Germany as a child. These memories include basking in the glow of a real pine tree lit with real candles, Beautiful Bavarian Zither music, a visit from St. Nikolaus and Knecht Ruprecht on December 6th, Advent wreathes, magical Christmas markets full of intricately carved wooden Nativity figurines and lots of Lebkuchen and other amazing German Christmas foods, and, of course, the beautiful German Christmas songs.
My first Christmas in Germany (I'm the girl on the far left):
Singing German Christmas carols on Christmas Eve with dear
friends in their "Stube" with a "Kachelofen" (tile oven) and a
tree lit with real candles. 
In fact, my fond memories of Christmas in Germany is one of the reasons why I wanted to raise my children German speaking in the first place. I wanted to share the beauty of a German Christmas with my children. And in order to truly share that experience with them, they needed to know German. Of course, it's possible to teach people about a cultural holiday without them knowing the language, but their experience and understanding of that holiday is going to be severely limited. To truly "feel" a German Christmas, you need to understand German language. Without the language, you don't understand the songs, the poems, or even the people and the culture. It's the language that brings a richness and a beauty to the celebration.

We have some German speaking friends sing in our
"Kinderchor" during our annual Adventsingen.
So, this year, as well as in all our past Christmases, we have incorporated many, many German Christmas traditions. We always start the season off by celebrating the 1st Advent. There's nothing like lighting that first of four candles on the Advent wreath to start building anticipation. And then comes St. Nikolaus Day on December 6th. My kids have wondered why St. Nikolaus doesn't visit their friends. I think it's because he only comes to those kids who speak German at home! We also always have an Adventsingen right before Christmas. We invite friends from Germany and friends who love Germany into our home and we spend the evening singing lots and lots of German Christmas carols. It's really the only time each year when our home is filled with German speakers (besides our own family). And this year, I was tickled pink, to see my little Clarissa make friends with another little girl. They ran around the house speaking German to each other. It was the cutest thing. She has never really spoken German with any other kids besides her siblings. Of course, all of the anticipation culminates with Christmas Eve! It's a special day for us as we focus on the birth of the Savior. The kids always act out the nativity and then we do our first round of presents (saving the American Santa gifts for Christmas morning--American style). We've blended many of our American traditions with our German traditions and the result has been a culturally rich and meaningful Christmas season.

Jonathan and Clarissa so excited that there are only 2 more
Sundays left until Christmas! Happy 2nd Advent!
Words can't even express how grateful I am for the opportunity to share German Christmas traditions with my own children. I love seeing their eyes sparkle when we light the Advent candles. I love that I can share my most precious childhood Christmas memories with my children even though we live in the United States. I love that they have a deep understanding of how Christmas is celebrated in another country. I love that they have learned to absolutely love and cherish and "own" these wonderful German traditions. It's been so fun hearing my older kids talk about how much they appreciate the fact that we have kept up with each of the traditions over the years. Raising our kids in our non-native German has indeed opened many doors and provided many opportunities for the kids, but I think it's at Christmastime when I realize just how much our family's bilingualism has touched our hearts and souls. Fröhliche, fröhliche Weihnachten, everyone!!



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