Our second host mother, Heilweg, runs a weekly coffee-and-cake gathering for the little old ladies of the church she works for. She invited us to join them on Wednesday, so I dragged Aaron and his little bro Micah out into the cold to chat with our elders and eat homemade cake.
It hadn’t occurred to me that of course this week’s get-together would be the Christmas party. We arrived fashionably late and walked into a roomful of seniors sweetly singing German Christmas carols. Heilweg interspersed the songs with stories and poems, including one favorite about a Christmas when the people were so poor that they had to decorate their trees with sauerkraut. That had the oldsters in stitches.
Everything went fine, if awkwardly, until Heilweg decided to officially introduce us.
“I’ve invited some young Americans to liven up our party,” she said. “And I thought it would be fun if now they lead us in some carols in English!” She turned expectantly to us.
Aaron and Micah blanched. Their minimal Christmas background could not help us here. I’m no Christian either, but I did play Christmas carols year after year for my piano lessons. Maybe I could pull this off.
“How about ‘Away in a Manger?’” Heilweg suggested.
“Sure, okay,” I agreed, frantically searching the vaults of my memory for the tune and words.
Heilweg wasted no time, and I belted out along with her:
“Away in a manger, no room for a bed,
The little lord Jesus sleeps on his head.”
Wait, those aren’t the words…oh well, moving on…
Line by line the songs came back to me. If I didn’t think about it, the words just came out. Apparently Christmas carols are like riding a bike. Aaron and Micah looked on me with awe, and the old ladies found me almost as entertaining as sauerkraut tinsel.