Our last Christmas (Kerstmis) season in Europe, Jon and I wanted to savor our time in the local area as much as possible during December. Knowing we would have Neil and his family for Christmas, I decided to go all out with the decorations. We have loved living in our house so much as it's the perfect place for entertaining and having company. We are really going to miss this house and know we will probably not find one as unique for quite some time. I wanted to document exactly how it looked for the holidays so we can always remember our last Christmas in Sittard.
|Our real Christmas tree and greenery from the backyard to make our hanging wreath|
Due to the entire month of December swiftly booking up with various events and parties, we were unable to schedule our own holiday party, but did manage to have a few friends over for dinner. We are so grateful for this special group of friends and it's hard to believe that within a few short months, we'll all be scattered throughout the world. We will certainly cherish the memories spent with them during our GK days.
|Dinner party with the Nortons, Zinneckers, and Cavanaughs|
For the second year, we participated in the Kerstmannenloop, or Santa Claus run, in Maastricht. This was a highlight of our holiday season two years ago and we were eager to take part again on this "fun run" through the festively lit old town streets of Maastricht.
|Along the "race" course|
|Our Santa posse|
On December 23rd our Clough Family Christmas kicked off with a trip to the Aachen Christmas market with Neil, Emily and the girls. The following day, we took part in a unique Christmas Eve service in the De Schark cave outside Maastricht. This service commemorates the midnight mass that took place here on December 24th, 1944, for over 300 U.S. soldiers assigned to the Maastricht area. For some, it was their last Christmas as many left to fight in the Battle of the Bulge the following day.
|Clough family at the entrance to the De Schark cave|
|Christmas Eve service in the cave|
|The service even included music|
In addition to a mass and memorial service in the cave, you can actually view the wall that all attendees of that first mass in 1944, signed. This year was also a special treat as they had a letter from the last remaining survivor of that 1944 service. It was incredible to hear his account of the fear he had during that time and the peace that this service brought him and his fellow service members that Christmas Eve so many years ago. This was definitely one of the most unique Christmas experiences I've had yet in Europe and I'm so glad we were able to incorporate into our family Christmas.
|Memorial wall with the signed names of the Dec. 24, 1944, service attendees|
On Christmas morning, the house was quite lively as the girls were so eager to find their presents around the tree. We enjoyed lazing the morning away opening and playing with all the gifts. There's nothing like celebrating Christmas with kids!
|Taking in the spectacle of the gift opening frenzy|
|Showing off their gifts to each other - whisky and a ham (the smokes were a joke)|
One of our Christmas gifts to Neil, Emily and the girls were tickets to the Kerst Circus (Christmas Circus) in Sittard. It actually doesn't have anything to do with Christmas, but it's tradition in this area to have a circus visit your town during the holidays. Jon and I went two years ago and loved it as adults, so we knew the girls would enjoy it too. I deemed the outing a great success when I saw that Sybil had posted on her Facebook page that the circus was her favorite part of Christmas. Score, Aunt Cat and Uncle Jon!
|At the Kerst Circus|
We had so many wonderful Kerst moments this year and I'm grateful we were able to share this holiday season with our friends and family. I will look back on this time fondly, cherishing our unique European Christmases!