Update: The Elf on the Shelf survived the trip & was waiting in the Christmas tree box. Depending on who you ask, this is either fortunate (kids) or unfortunate (for those of us responsible for him). Maybe I should have thought that through a little more before packing...too late now!!
However, I think we may have stumbled upon a few new traditions this past weekend.
On Friday night, we attended Jackson's class Christmas party at school, during which his class performed a poem and two songs for the parents. We didn't understand a word, but were so proud of him. The next morning, we looked up one of the songs and found that it's actually a SPANISH Christmas song! No wonder we didn't understand the 6-7 year old children's pronunciations!
The next day, we drove to Cologne, which is a larger city north of Bonn, for a Christmas party with Matthew's coworkers. A great time was had by all - including the kids, who were able to participate in kids activities, crafts, watch a Christmas movie, and even visit Santa!
Since it would be late, we got a hotel room and stayed the night. The next day, we attended Mass at the Cologne Cathedral, which was a beautiful experience. The boys' choir sang and the third advent calendar was lit. We sang chant and hymns. During the Sanctus, the sun suddenly came out and lit up the stained glass windows, which was breathtaking (literally - I think half of the people in the cathedral gasped). We chose to leave during communion since Brandtley needed to use the restroom (and had first notified us when we had sat down in the pew an hour before). As everyone else filed to the front, we filed out of the row and turned toward the back. I was startled to see a large crowd of onlookers behind the barriers at the back of the church - tourists & sightseers stopping by but not attending the service.
I chose not to take pictures before or during the service (I wanted to!!) but snapped a few discreetly as we stood to leave and while everyone else was standing to go forward for communion.
Roman ruins from the 2nd century AD that have been excavated next to the foundations of the church. When the foundations were dug in the mid-14th century, they were laid on top of the ruins & destroyed many of them. However, when a parking garage was being built underground in 1969, these were found. This was a house with a cellar. The wall on the right is the foundation of the church.
Next to the public restrooms, we saw a sign stating admission to the Cathedral tower. We thought that sounded cool, so we purchased a family ticket and didn't realize what we had signed up for until we saw the stairs. Impromptu climb in dress shoes to the top of a cathedral!! It was well worth it, though. The views were fantastic, the kids had a great time, and we all got a good workout. We could even still hear some of the organ music of the service through the walls at times.
We climbed a circular staircase inside this tower - near the top, you can see small rectangular windows, which were windows to the stairwell.
View of the Christmas Market below.
On our way home, we stopped for lunch near one of the old city walls of Cologne and walked through this gate.
Matthew & the boys under the gate.
I hope to make this a tradition to be repeated each year we're here - perhaps not the tower climb, but the opportunity to attend Mass in the Cathedral is something I will cherish.
Tschüss and Frohe Weihnachten!