Sundays in Germany

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I
was pretty lucky when I grew up in the 60's in Germany since I had
both sets of my grandparents. The ones I lived with for a while
had a farm, bakery and vineyard while my other grandparents on my
dad's side lived in the city — well, small town would be a better
description. But I considered it u2018the city' since it did not resemble
my small village.

It
was pretty exciting to visit my Oma and Opa on the weekend, because
not only did they live close to the small train station, but Opa
also had a pretty cool garden nearby that we went to visit a lot
during the summer months.

My
grandfather worked for the railroad, so he knew a lot about trains
and engines, the times the trains arrived and departed and all the
other neat stories that only train people know.

My
grandparents rented a good size apartment on the outskirts of town
in a building that looked like a large villa. The hallways were
long and narrow with squeaky floors. It had a peculiar smell of
linoleum and bees wax and fresh green beans. There was a patio at
the end of the hallway covered in glass with lots of sunshine streaming
in throughout the day.

One
of the main rooms — as in most German households — was the kitchen.
It had its usual wood-burning stove, a big table in the center,
a buffet and a sofa so Opa can take his afternoon nap.

There
also were some interesting wall plates hanging above the sofa which
later became my focal point when I could read. One in particular
stuck out because of its interesting saying. It read:

Alle Tage
ist kein Sonntag
Alle
Tage gibt's kein Wein
Aber
du sollst alle Tage
Recht
lieb zu mir sein

Its
English translation would go somewhat like this: Every day there
is no Sunday, every day there is no wine, but every day please be
kind to me.

Every
time I remember this saying I think back to the days I spent with
my grandparents in the u2018city' and enjoying the traditional Sunday
preparations.

It was a nice get-a-way to go to town and shop with Oma at the butcher
store for fresh meat on Saturdays. My brother and I would always
get a piece of sausage for a snack. Then we'd stop at the bakery
store to get our usual bread, rolls and pastries for us kids. Sometimes
she even took us to a café where she had her coffee and my
brother and I had a delicious hot chocolate.

Cafés
are really neat and quaint. The hushed atmosphere can be relaxing.
People talk and visit but with quiet voices. Coffee is served on
a tray with a doily in small coffee cans and cups and saucers. Cute
little milk cans and wrapped sugar cubes make the whole presentation
seem like a little girl's tea-time set.

If
we got lucky and we ended up at grandmas on Friday, we would go
to market and see pigs, ducks and chicken being sold right next
to a fruit or vegetable stand. It was a colorful and noisy day,
and my grandma would run into acquaintances at one point or another
during her shopping experience to show off her grandchildren.

Saturday
is cake day. I don't think there was a single household in Germany
that didn't bake their Sunday cake on Saturday. With eager anticipation
my brother and I waited for Oma's signal to let us lick the sweet
dough off the wooden spoon with an extra finger dip into the bowl
when she wasn't looking.

Part
of Sunday preparation was sweeping the streets, mopping the floors,
dusting or washing windows, which was all done on a Saturday afternoon.
Most shopping for the weekend had to be taken care of on Saturday
as well, since stores are closed on Sundays.

When
bedtime came around I usually ended up in the middle of my grandparents'
bed. Oma always had the same ritual of telling me the fairy tales
of "The Wolf and the Seven Goats" followed by "Little
Red Riding Hood."

Sometimes
my grandfather would put in his own commentary and change up the
story a little, which always made us laugh so hard. Later on I realized
that even though I enjoyed the stories told to me, it was the voice
of my grandmother that sounded so soothing and reassuring to me.

After the stories we had to say our good-night prayers and I had
to recall every relative and family member for a special blessings.
My grandmother made sure we wouldn't forget this important part
of our nighttime ritual.

I
liked their bedroom, because the flowery curtains she had on her
windows looked like faces to me, and I always tried to find a new
face in the patterns. Very entertaining indeed when one lies there
waiting to get up for breakfast on Sunday morning.

She
also had this beautiful picture on top of her bed that looked like
it was from the 40's era with a baby lying on a pillow while the
mother lovingly gazes at her curly-haired child. Two small cherubs
peeked through the dark silk curtains in the background with smiling
faces.

I
loved that picture so much. I don't know what happened to it in
later years, but the impression this picture had on my young girl's
mind lasts to this day. I could only see total adoration and love
in the eyes of the mother.

Sundays
are special throughout Germany. Most people don't work on Sundays.
It starts off quietly, since hardly any cars or trucks are out on
the street in the morning. Oma would fix us hot chocolate and serve
her regular bundt cake. It was quite a sweet u2018awakening' considering
the amount of sugar we got, but it was after all a Sunday, and had
to be different than the everyday Monday through Saturday where
bread, butter and jam are the norm.

We
all dressed in our Sunday clothes. Opa and Oma both would wear hats
to church, and I remember that I even had a hat once myself. Sunday
mass is different than on regular workdays. There is a festive feeling
to it.

It
was also nice to visit another church occasionally. The figures
and statues on the side alters can take a while to discover all
of their fine details. Especially for a kid it was great to look
at the paintings, since I had no clue what the priest was preaching
on. I used my time by checking out my surroundings and as always
used my imagination to picture the life of the saints and Jesus
himself; and I was always mesmerized by Mary's beauty and grace.

By
the time church was over, we had to rush home so Oma could check
on her roast. We usually had roast with potato dumplings and creamed
Chinese cabbage or green beans and salad. Opa would turn on the
radio to listen to brass band music, while I tried to help my grandmother
with her potato dumplings (I still haven't figured out how to do
them right).

After
dinner we often took a walk through the town or in the park, and
if family or friends weren't coming over to visit, she'd still set
the coffee table with a tablecloth and her fine china. I loved the
smell of coffee brewing. Sitting down for cake and coffee in the
afternoon is one of the most relaxing experiences in Europe. I consider
it almost an art form and it is similar to the English Tea Time.

People
invite each other over for visits on Sundays to catch up with each
other while sitting around the living room table (used probably
only on Sundays) with fine porcelain cups, saucers and a white tablecloth,
candles and sometimes even flowers.

Sundays
are certainly a day of rest when I was growing up. I was able to
distinguish the difference between work days and rest days. It brought
a break into the mundane everyday life. Even the food that was being
served that day would be different and special.

I
lost this sense of a holiday for a while when I came to live in
the US, but have since then regained a fresh understanding of what
a holiday represents. Its divine law as outlined in Genesis that
man is to rest on the seventh day has found a new meaning in my
present day life.

I
now consider traditions and rituals as a form of silent communication.
Their actions seem to transmit a message to man's spirit that can
bring forth a profound depth and understanding to his everyday existence
if grounded in the truth of a law that furthers the betterment of
his character.

The
Sabbath law is wisdom in action.

I have seen in my personal experience that adversity is hard labor.
All six workdays are a struggle to extract a living from the soil.
Both of my grandparents and parents had their hardship in their
lives, but on Sundays they regained a new perspective on their lives
and were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Its observance
celebrates life and overcomes the daily challenges of the week.

I
have finally recognized that a divine law does not restrict but
brings forth a growth in man that leads to maturity. Adversity is
part of this process. Yet, I seem to notice how many laws in the
books are dead and lifeless. They represent no meaning, because
their creators want to eradicate adversity and diversity. I see
these laws as babysitting the immature. They want Sundays everyday
rather than labor for six days and use adversity and differences
as a tool to bring out the best within themselves.

I
challenge any lawmaker to evaluate their laws to see if they restrict
man and snuff out every bit of liberty or if they further growth.

My
grandmother's wall plate expresses a true statement in a sense that
every day cannot be a Sunday, and every day cannot be wine, but
kindness and love should rule the life of men. The labor of every
day is needed as much as the day of rest to accomplish this balance.

I
appreciate the understanding I've gained through this experience,
because daily adversity has brought alive the important meaning
of respect and honor for self and others. A good law can create
good character in all people. But most of all, it allowed me to
value life with its ups and downs.

November
14, 2003

Sabine
Barnhart [send her mail]
moved to the US in 1980 and lives in Fort Worth, TX with
her three children. For the past 15 years she has been working for
an international service company.


        
        

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