VL-A very German Christmas

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Frohe Weihnachten

A Very German Christmas

Story and photos by Ben Martin

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The halls of the Rials home are fully decked come Christmas time.

“I have to say that my all-time favorite Christmas movie is ‘Christmas Vacation,’” Christine Rials said. “And I feel like I might be the female version of Clark Griswold just because I want everything to be pretty.”

Every inch of Rials’ Vicksburg home is decorated with Christmas cheer. Each room is color-coordinated and sports numerous themed displays.

Rials said she is self-taught when it comes to decorating. Her love for Christmas decor really took off when she and her husband, who also goes by Chris, lived in Stuttgart, Germany, for three years starting in 2017.

“Stuttgart had a really large Christmas market. And what I  loved about it … is that they make sure that it was really pretty and decorated,” she said. “They actually did a competition so all the vendors would compete for the prettiest stall and the winner would get like 1000 euros.”

The result was a market dressed to the nines for Christmas.

“They really wanted to make sure that everything was top-notch,” she said. “And it was just pretty amazing.”

Rials has fond childhood memories of her mother decorating for Christmas. She still has a few of those pieces she likes to display.

“When she passed away a few years ago, I got some of her decorations; and she would hand-make everything,” Rials said.

These include much of the centerpieces and garland adorning the dining table.

One of Rials’ many collections consists of dozens of nutcrackers that sit on the mantle in the dining room.

“I like specific ones. There’s a town in Germany in the Erzgebirge region,” Rials said. “It’s called Seiffener. And one of the ways that they made their economy was they made Christmas things out of wood, and they are known for their nutcrackers.”

Nearly all of Rials’ nutcrackers come from the Erzgebirge region of Germany.

She also has several collections of miniature Christmas trees in different mediums on display. One set is an array of hand-turned wooden trees, some of which come from local woodworkers.

Another collection is composed entirely of ceramic trees.

A variety of foods are assembled for Rials’ parties. One dish she is particularly fond of making is Maultaschen.

“It’s really warm and inviting and just really good comfort food,” she said. “It’s funny because, in the south, we do like our pork. Well, so does Germany. They love their pork.”

Rials described the dish.

“Basically, it looks a little bit like a ravioli, but it’s very thin and it has a meat filling,” she said. “And then you serve it either as a hand pocket or you serve it in a bowl with beef broth.

A couple of Rials’ friends taught her how to make several dishes, including Maultaschen, during her time in Germany.

“I had two friends teach me who were from there, how to make this. And what was so fascinating about it was how you have to get ingredients,” Rials said. “It’s a European thing where you don’t just go to the grocery store. It’s so important to get the best and most fresh ingredients. They pride themselves on making sure that you get things from a specific place.”

They gathered the ingredients from several locations.

“So you would go to the farmers’ market to get your spinach, right? You would go to the butcher and you had to get your meat and it had to be finely ground,” she said. “And then we ordered the pasta in advance.”

Rials usually makes Maultaschen, German potato salad and apple strudel. Others chip in for a cornucopia of German holiday recipes.

A fond Christmas memory she has is spending time with friends in Germany and learning how they prepared traditional dishes.

“It was fun to sit down and learn a lot about how they cook things and how different it is, and they weigh everything, and so it’s very different versus us measuring everything, and it seemed to go much faster. It was kind of interesting,” Rials said. “But it’s very endearing, and I still think about my times doing that with them and spending time with them. It was fun…I felt like we built another family out there, which was really nice, and they were really sweet.”

As one would expect, the Rials home is often the gathering place for extended family during the holidays. Now three generations celebrate Christmas in their home. Last year, Christmas Rials counted 10 little ones running around.

This year, Rials’ home will be part of the O’ Christmas Tree tour,  put on by the Vicksburg Main Street Program and the Vicksburg Heritage Guild.

The tour will allow visitors a chance to see a dozen of the city’s most beautiful homes fully decorated for the Christmas season.

The tour is in honor of Mahala Eggleston Roach, a resident of Vicksburg in the 19th century. According to legend, Roach was the first person to have an indoor Christmas Tree in Vicksburg.

Roach got the idea after reading about how Germans decorated for the holidays.

Rials’ home will be shown on Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.tickettailor.com/events/ochristmastree/998356