A year ago, I was an English Language Assistant at a German school, just west of the Dutch border in a town called Mönchengladbach.
I remember the festive spirit at school: On December 6th, Nicholaustag, the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) made an appearance. I felt privileged to creep into one Year Five class to watch him read out a special letter to the pupils: each teacher prepared a thoughtful letter about how the children had settled into their new school. The Weihnachtsmann’s sack contained a chocolate Santa for each child – the looks of joy and surprise on the children’s faces took me back in time to my own Christmas excitement as a child.
I waited and waited, feeling anxious by this point: where could everyone be?!
But before long, familiar faces appeared. A couple of choir members brought a table onto the pavement, and a dancing, singing electric Father Christmas toy joined us in the darkness. Someone poured out the Glühwein (delicious mulled wine), and we began to sing together whilst waiting for everyone else to arrive.
It seemed that everyone enjoyed the evening – it was the combination of great music, food, and company. Towards the end of the night, the Weihnachtsmann prepared to say a few closing words.
What I was least expecting, though, was the following question: “and who is new in the choir this year…?”
The garage fell silent, and everyone pointed at me. I had no choice but to nervously walk up to the front, where I was hugged by Father Christmas. Blushing, I was both touched and in shock, to the extent that I couldn’t find any German words to answer his so-called “easy” question: “Grace, can you tell us a random fact about yourself?”
The only fact that came to mind, after a long pause, was that this was to be an unforgettable advent for me - warmly welcomed by new friends into a new place.