A Christmas Household of Many Different Tongues

Christmas scene of front door and tree

 

It was Christmas Day, 1980, at our home at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, when a handful of my mother’s friends from all over came to visit and stay a couple of nights.  I was eleven years old at the time and brimming with excitement over the gifts from Santa and my parents.  But it only grew in fun and warmth through these wonderful people who stayed with us.  Below are the people who stayed with us around Christmas.

Bill:  A World War II veteran and friend of my mother’s (and eventually my father) before they married.

Marilyn:  A sweet woman from Belgium (lives in Greece) (her father was from Belgium and mother from Greece) who speaks French and Greek and only a few English words here and there.

Frida:  An energetic woman from Switzerland who speaks German and French and English.

Chantal:  Daughter of Frida who speaks German and French.

Anthoula & family:  A family from Greece that speaks Greek and German and lived in Germany when we were there.

*FYI: My mother is from Greece and speaks Greek and English.

Everyone got along splendidly.  The languages of French, German, Greek, and English  were like a symphony to my ears.  It stoked a special joy and magic to the Holy Day.  I only speak English and did my best to communicate with our guests.  They were all very kind to me, and all of them felt like part of our family.  So, you can imagine the conversations going on between Marilyn and my mother in Greek, Marilyn and Frida and Chantal in French, Frida and Chantal and Anthoula and her family in German, and Bill and my family in English.  My sister and I tried to chat with Marilyn (early 20s) and Chantal (approximately late teens/early 20s) as best as we could.  Gestures helped out a lot.  And I remember Marilyn spoke a few words in English that were enough for me to grasp what she was talking about.

foreign languages heart

As the large dining room table filled up with delicious Christmas foods, I was in the kitchen watching my mom running in and out of the kitchen to the dining room table to set out the dishes.  She looked frantic because, with the except of the turkey (mom had no idea about how to cook turkeys being Greek!) cooked up by my dad (which was always delicious), she did all the rest of the cooking and most of the preparing and serving!  Anyway, I don’t remember my question, but I asked her something, and she looked down at me with one of the dishes of food in her hand and responded to me in Greek!  I said something like, “Mom, I don’t understand what you said.”  Haha!  She then spoke to me in English.  🙂  With all the different languages floating inside the house, it was only natural that at least once, someone would lose track of to whom they were speaking.

BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.

Best Christmas 1980 in Germany

(Our gathering at the table for Christmas dinner. I’m on the left closest to the camera.)

What was your best Christmas memory?

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