- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) - Anita Osborn’s home is filled with reminders of German Christmas traditions every year. She has nutcrackers, hand-carved figurines, Christmas pyramids and a variety of Advent items.

Osborn grew up in the former East Germany. Though she escaped to West Germany in 1950, it took three years to obtain a visa to the U.S., arriving in March 1953. Osborn was raised by her grandparents in East Germany.

“I adored them and they loved me,” she said.

Her parents were missionaries and eventually settled in Scottsbluff after her father was offered a position where he could preach in German and English.

Osborn was raised in the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains in English. She describes them in her memoir, “Echoes of the Past,” as a small mountainous range in the southeastern part of the state of Sachsen in eastern Germany. The region is rich in uranium, silver, iron and cobalt.

“It’s a beautiful, mountainous region mostly known for mining,” she told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald (http://bit.ly/1reNRb8 ).

It’s also rich in folklore, tradition and wooden carvings. Throughout her life, Osborn kept many traditions alive and is teaching them to her grandchildren.

“We’ve kept some traditions in the family and, of course, incorporated some American ones as well,” she said.

An Advent centerpiece occupies prime space on Osborn’s table.

“The Advent centerpiece tells us that Christmas was near,” Osborn said.

Osborn also makes white paper stars to hang on the tree.

“I learned to make them as a little girl in Sunday school,” she said. “All we had on the tree were white stars and candles.”

Christmas trees were always fresh. The tree itself was part of the Christmas gift. In Osborn’s grandparents’ home, the parlor became the Christmas room. The tree was put up and decorated on Christmas Eve.

“No one was allowed in there except Grandfather,” she said. “He put the tree up and decorated it by himself.”

There was no Santa or stockings like in America, she said. On Christmas morning, the crèche was the only item under the tree.

“You know, that’s the thing that’s important,” Osborn said.

Each member of the home had their own special table on which gifts would be placed.

Families walked to church on Christmas Day. Her family attended the 6 a.m. service.

“I remember walking to church and listening to the crunching snow under my feet,” she said. “There was a choir that played brass music. You could hear them all through the village.”

Walking home from church, Osborn would look at the windows of people’s homes.

“Families placed an angel for a girl and a miner for a boy in their front windows,” she said. “You could tell how many children they had by counting the angels and miners.”

Christmas was also the time at home when families ate Christmas Stollen. It’s a tradition that dates back to at least the 1400s. Before 1490, butter was prohibited during the Advent fasting before Christmas and oil was used instead.

Osborn also has a collection of wooden figurines, hand-carved in the Erzgebirge.

Family has always been important to Osborn. It’s the reason she wrote her memoir and why she and her husband, Bill, went to great lengths to obtain visas to East Germany in 1975. She has visited Germany several times, the most recent trip was three years ago.

“We had a big family reunion and I saw some of my cousins who are still alive,” she said. “It was a wonderful time.”

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Information from: Star-Herald, http://www.starherald.com

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