Christmas, Coffee and Song

Christmas for many is a time of excitement, expectation and merriment, a gathering of families to share and enjoy good food and the exchanging of gifts along with the sanctity and ritual of traditions, be they religious or familial. It is also a time of reflection, remembering those who are no longer with us, and those that cannot be with us for whatever reason.

It is at this time of year when I always miss my father most. He loved everything about Christmas, the pains he took in making our toys when we were little – the wooden forts and dolls houses and prams; all the secrecy, the pleasure he obviously took in finding the right things for us all, and the fun I know he had in putting up all the decorations and dressing the tree on Christmas Eve after us four children had gone to bed. He also took charge of bringing home and cooking the turkey.

One pleasure he took was in taking us all to see the Christmas lights along the Great West Road at Brentford, where we lived. Near to the Gillette factory was Firestone Tyres factory, which had a long, lawned frontage that to us children seemed to go for miles. Every year the factory put up a fantastic display of lights: trees, sleighs and all sorts. It was a magical sight and I continued this evening excursion with my own daughter, much to her delight.

Lights at Firestones. Copyright Clive Warneford
Lights at Firestones. Copyright Clive Warneford

Christmas is for children, the magic for me seeing the pleasure in their smiling faces as they see displays, the decorated tree, and that wonderful moment of pure joy when they rip open their presents.

Each year in late November, Oma, my German grandmother, would send over a parcel of Christmas goodies. These always included Advent calendars, our presents, and lots of foodstuffs that were not available at that time (back in 1950s and 60s) in England: things such as Stollen, Lebkuchen and Lebkuchenherzen (iced gingerbread hearts). She always sent candy canes – something normally associated with the USA. The origin of striped candy canes comes from Germany when these treats made to represent a shepherd’s crook were given out to children when leaving church at Christmas time.

There is one special tradition I now continue although at the time we came across this, it had nothing to do with Christmas but is now the time of year I preserve the memory of my father. One year, my husband treated my parents, my daughter and me to a holiday cruise down the Rhine in Germany. It was Easter time, and an incredibly hot one at that. One of the towns along the river we visited was Rudesheim, where they make Asbach Uralt– a type of brandy, and one of my favourite tipples (when I can get hold of it!). It was here we were introduced to Rudesheimer coffee – a type of “Irish” coffee, with a difference. Dad couldn’t get enough of it, insisting on this whenever we had coffee during that trip. Years later, when he and my mother spent many Christmases with us, I would make Dad his Rudesheimer coffee in memory of that lovely trip together. And each year at Christmas I still make myself one. Okay, maybe two or three over the festive break. I have included the recipe here. Unlike the spirited after-meal coffees we are used to in the UK, this one is served in a large mug, or, as I have, a special cup and saucer bought in Germany for the purpose of. I hope you give it a try.

Meanwhile in a time of reflection and sadness following several sad happenings recently, here is my tribute to the dreadful shootings in America last week:

Wishing everyone an enjoyable, peaceful and safe Christmas.

22 thoughts

  1. I SO want to try that coffee. It sounds warming and lovely.
    Your comments about your father and traditions almost bring me to tears. My father is in his golden years and I’m not sure how much longer we’ll have together. 6 years ago I began taking him to a senior center to play cards. We’ve rarely missed a Tuesday of pinochle. I think that tradition will always be with me.
    Merry Christmas, Kit!


    1. Although I didn’t always see eye to eye with my father, I miss him lots even though it’s been 14 years. Make the most of your time with yours, Laurie, each moment is a precious bonus. Have a lovely Christmas. XX


  2. A truly beautiful post, Kit. I think we all miss people we’ve lost at this time of year. I particularly missed my dear brother, lost just before Christmas, exactly ten years ago. Your post – and your dear mother’s song 🙂 made me realise that it is a time that we should reflect and rejoice. Thank you. As I type this, the bells at the local church are ringing. Very poignant – it is indeed at time to think about others and be thankful! 🙂 xx


    1. Thank you, Sheryl. I’ve set off a whole train of memories and emotions today. Our roots and our childhood always stay with us and I am truly grateful for the great Christmases my parents ensured we had, though often at the time I didn’t appreciate it, I value them all now. Memories are as much a part of the traditions of this time of year as is the festivities and decorations. Have a lovely Christmas. 🙂


  3. Reading your post and the wonderful comments reminds me that our family isn’t alone in missing those that can longer physically share this Christmas with us. My father and mother loved Christmas and even when times were tough made sure each one was filled with the wonder of the season. Jack was also big on Christmas and I know the kids are missing him in a different way from me but no less. I count myself fortunate and blessed for all the memories that only grow with the years. Merry Christmas everyone.


  4. I read this post as I was eating my toasted stollen, and sipping my coffee. The piece of music took me by surprise and I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Like Anneli, it took me back to the childhood Christmases, with our mother singing this song to us every year. It is a tough time of year, but the memories get us through. Thank you for this lovely post.


    1. Oh my, seems I’ve hit a chord with many here today, especially with that song, which my mother also sang to us when we were small. I hope the memories are plentiful, Sonja. Perhaps we should start our own club and all get together and raise a glass and piece of cake to our happy childhood Christmases. Have a lovely one.


  5. At a dinner party last night I had coffee with cream and two spirits mixed – it wasn’t holy but it packed a wallop! It’s hard not to think about those not around the table each Christmas, but I always feel they are there anyway! Lovely memories Kit!


  6. I lost my father close to Christmas a few years ago. He adored Christmas and having spent the first seven of my life in Germany with him and my mother I also learned to love them. It hasn’t been the same since he passed away but you have reminded me of happier times here today Kit and although I have a tear in my eye I have fond memories.
    I shall be thinking of you all over Christmas and thank you for this beautiful post and song.


    1. Hi Carol. In some ways I wish I hadn’t come across the song again, I’m wallowing at the moment with weepy eyes. It was one my mother often sang and I hadn’t heard it for years. Am now playing lots of German carols and wishing I had a gingerbread heart to nibble on. Happy Christmas. Hugs 🙂


    1. You, too, Anneli? I always get very sentimental at this time of year and miss the German Christmases of childhood even if most were spent here in the UK. Mum managed to keep most of her traditions alive for us to enjoy. It’s such a pity my husband doesn’t like this time of year. Bah humbug to him.. Have a lovely one. XX 🙂


      1. Should shut your husband and mine up in a room together over Christmas and let them whine together. You and I could eat stollen and drink Gluhwein. (mit Anneli!) xx


  7. Lovely post, Kit, and it has prompted my own memories of Chistmases past. Like you, I miss my dad most at this time of year as he also loved Christmas and made it such fun for us all.

    Mmm, stollen, love it with a glass of bubbly (or two)… hic … Will need to try the Rudesheimer recipe for my coffee-loving husband 🙂

    Wishing you a lovely Christmas.


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