The German Armed Forces Liaison Office, in partnership with community volunteers, hosted the annual German Christmas Service Monday evening at the Fort Leonard Wood World War II Museum Complex Chapel.
The church service, and subsequent social gathering, has become a Christmas staple for Fort Leonard Wood community members of German heritage. The sermon was delivered in German and English.
German army Lt. Col. Roland Weinberger, liaison officer, said the installation has a considerable German cultural presence.
“On official duty, we just have four German soldiers on duty at Fort Leonard Wood, but there is a huge German community,” he said. “I cannot walk around on Fort Leonard Wood in German uniform (without) someone starting to speak German to me.”
Chaplain Bernhard Tschullik, the chaplain for all Catholic German military service members in the United States, traveled to Fort Leonard Wood from El Paso, Texas, solely to lead the service.
He said he hopes Christians remember the religious aspect of the holiday.
“I think the important thing for me is not commerciality,” he said. “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Weinberger, who grew up in Cologne, said this year will be his first Christmas in the U.S. He added that he noticed Americans decorate for the season differently than his fellow Germans.
“Your Christmas decoration is a lot more huge,” he said, “with a lot more lights.”
A veritable smorgasbord of traditional German eats lined tables at the post-service social event in the World War II Mess Hall.
Aromas of bratwurst, sausage and sauerkraut warmed the cold air under the red and white striped tent.
Inside the mess hall, familiar dishes of goulash and stollen (cake) conjured memories of “home” for German patrons. Piping hot gluehwein mitigated a cold wind and accompanied laughter as community members relaxed together.
Gluehwein is a classic German winter drink made from hot spiced wine and is sometimes thought of as a beverage to be had after skiing. Weinberger said the wine is typically served at Christmas markets — an iconic German holiday tradition.
“This is a common thing,” he said. “You can’t have a Christmas market without gluehwein. It’s like going to Oktoberfest and not drinking beer.”
Weinberger thanked the community and Fort Leonard Wood for supporting German tradition.