Christmas Eve 2011

Tonight – well, last night – was Christmas Eve. And since Christmas Eve is the main event here in Germany, we already lit up the tree and opened the presents.

Unlike last year’s very white Christmas, this year’s was wet and miserable and also much too warm for the season. In short, it was much more in accordance with a typical North German Christmas. It’s also the sort of really nasty weather which always gives me headaches. Luckily, I bought a new pack of Aspirin just before the holidays.

This year’s Christmas Eve was very much like last year’s. We had roasted hare with apple cranberry sauce for lunch and herring salad according to my grandmother’s recipe for dinner (and we will continue to have it for dinner right up to New Year’s Eve).

My Mom wanted to serve the Christmas pudding I’d bought for tea this afternoon and realized to her dismay that it has to be cooked in a water bath for one and a half hours. “Of course you have to heat Christmas pudding”, I told her, “Didn’t you know that?” Though the Sainsbury Christmas pudding I bought back from my semester abroad in England back in the day was microwaveable. We’ll probably be eating the Christmas pudding either tomorrow or on Boxing Day, which is better anyway, because Christmas pudding is filling and I already was rather full today. Besides, one of my parents’ neighbours brought us a plate of homemade cookies, so we ate those.

Presents: I got lots of books, a new hairbrush (from the same manufacturer the Queen uses) and a very pretty necklace. My Mom got books as well, my Dad got shirts and a pyjama and new motorbike boots and a really cute Playmobil motorbiker I bought for him as a joke, because the Playmobil bike looks almost like his own.

Photos will follow tomorrow, because I’m rather tired today.

Finally, Dutch-Austrian actor and singer Johannes Heesters died on Christmas Eve aged 108. Johannes Heesters was the world’s oldest working actor who was still occasionally appearing on stage and TV until a few months ago. The international press mainly mentions his work during the Third Reich and tries to paint him as some kind of unrepentant propaganda actor (see this Washington Post obituary, though it does have a nice photo of Heesters with his second wife Simone Rethel, who was 46 years his junior) which strikes me as rather mean spirited, considering the man’s career spanned eight decades and that he didn’t do what dozens of other distinguished actors and singers didn’t do as well. Never mind that Heesters appeared in operettas and musical comedies, not in explicit propaganda films.

As for what it was like working as in show business during the Third Reich, Sartorias points out this great post by azdak about German song writer Bruno Balz who wrote the lyrics to many classic German songs of the 1930s, 1940s and beyond (some of which were sung by Johannes Heesters and many more of which were sung by Zarah Leander). Though I wouldn’t really refer to the old Balz/Leander songs as “Schlager”, because they’re stylistically closer to operettas and actually pretty good, unlike the saccharine crap that was the Schlager genre in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anyway, in memory of Johannes Heesters, here he is singing “Ach ich hab sie ja nur auf die Schulter geküsst” (I only kissed her on the shoulder) from Der Bettelstudent (The student prince), a 1936 adaption of Karl Millöcker’s operetta. Here he is with Rudi Godden singing Peter Kreuder’s fabulous “I brauche keine Millionen” (I don’t need any millions) in the 1939 musical Hallo Janine, a performance made even more remarkable by the fact that swing music was banned in Nazi Germany. And here he is again, more than seventy years later, singing a song in honour of his 107th birthday.

He was one of the really great ones, Washington Post be damned.

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