It's important that it was the second Christmas of my mission.
The first had not gone so well at all. The first Christmas I'd been in Germany just over a month in a very difficult companionship (and I'd only realized later that I shared the blame for that). The families we knew best were all away for the holiday and finally the branch president and his wife invited us for Christmas dinner. I couldn't reach my parents by phone because no circuits were open and by the time I got through a few days later they weren't at my brother's home any longer.
Poor me. It wasn't a great Christmas.
But the second Christmas was almost magical.
I'd been on my mission over a year and felt more comfortable with myself as a missionary. While my companion leading up to Christmas would never be my best friend, we got along ok and we worked hard together. I was planning a Christmas surprise for him when we got word of his transfer, so I left his gift in his suitcase and he discovered it as he packed.
My new companion, a German, was spectacular. He was relaxed as he entered our companionship four days before Christmas, was calm about the slowness of the work over the holiday, and was quick to engage the members of both the German and American serviceman's branches we worked with. We grew to have an outstanding companionship and we enjoyed working together.
We spent Christmas Eve with our landlady, a widow who lived in one apartment in the house while we had the top floor. She was always kind to us, but Christmas Eve was delightful. We had bought a small tree and decorated it to surprise her and she made a great fuss over our gift. We feasted on hard breads and cheese and meat, sang Christmas songs and shared the Christmas story in her comfortable and well-furnished apartment. Her husband has been a rubber chemist and had a long career with the famous tire makers and his pension left her quite comfortable. She was grateful to have us in the house because we shoveled the snow in the winter, the only demand she made of us besides our very low rent we paid. (When two of the four of us left the apartment a few months later, she cut the rent in half.)
We also benefited from the kindness of members. The American branch had collected food for several weeks before the holiday and we assumed it was for some needy family. We were astonished when it was delivered to our apartment – three boxes of great US-Px food that we hadn't seen since we'd left the States. And on Christmas morning, a gift from the German members arrived on our doorstep, providing us ham and other Christmas meats. (We did no shopping in January thanks to the windfall!)
We spent Christmas Day in the home of the American branch president, and December 26 (Zweiter Fiertag, or Second Holiday in German) with the German branch president and his family.
We were warm, well fed and well loved that Christmas. This Christmas as I have some, but not all of my children at home, I am glad to know that they also are all warm, they will be well fed and they are well loved.