A Favorite Christmas
C. Nemeth

All but one of my Christmas holidays have been spent with family and friends. The one exception, upon reflection, is my favorite. Let me explain.

In 1951, I was serving in the Army at an ammunition facility in Germany. This ammo dump was located in far western Germany near the Saar basin, a piece of land claimed by both Germany and France for many years.

The Rhine Ammo Depot was the only one issuing ammunition for training in Europe. It was situated among farms and between two small towns. Miesau was directly north, and Bruchmuehlbach was south, containing the train terminal for the area. I remember a gasthaus (tavern) in Miesau where you could get some great food and which I frequented on pay day.

As the Yule season approached, my roommates and I were feeling homesick. Someone, I do not remember who, came up with a suggestion that immediately energized all of us into action: “Why not find a church and go to midnight Mass?” We asked our sergeant whether we could be provided with a bus and driver for Christmas Eve. After a day he was able to authorize a bus and driver for us to go to Mass.

We began to look for a church. One of the German nationals working on the base suggested one in a town some six miles from the base. My memory does not allow me to tell you its name.

Christmas Eve, and we all clambered onto the bus. As I remember there were between 12 and 15 of us. We were dressed in our Class A uniforms. As we arrived at the church, we could see that there were many people moving toward it. We all stepped off the bus and made our way to the entrance.

The church was already quite full as we entered. After a moment the people began to move together to give us room to sit. The church interior was decorated with fresh pine boughs. Even the end caps of the pews were covered with boughs. I cannot describe to you how beautifully the church was decorated. The people near us turned and wished us welcome.

The Mass began. The choir began singing as the congregation rose and knelt. A small boy no more than 9 or 10 stood in front of the altar and began to sing the Christmas story from the Bible. His young soprano voice was clear and strong. He appeared fully at ease.

The service continued. The priest would turn and face the congregation from time to time, and the young boy would sit while the priest spoke and then, once again, rise and continued with the story. None of us understood German very well but it made no difference. The beautiful sanctuary, the pine boughs, the candles, the little boy and the welcome by the congregation had us all enchanted.

As we left after the Mass we were greeted by many people, again wishing us holiday greetings, smiling and shaking our hands.

We were a subdued and quiet bunch of GIs on the way back to the base. Throughout the years I have remembered the church and the people when I celebrate the Christmas holidays. I will treasure it always.