The German Armed Forces Liaison, in partnership with community volunteers, hosted the annual German Christmas Service Dec. 13 at the Fort Leonard Wood World War II Museum Complex Chapel.
The church service has become a welcome part of festivities for Fort Leonard Wood community members of German heritage as the sermon is now carried out in two languages. German army Lt. Col. Dirk Veeck, liaison officer, said this year’s shift toward his mother tongue made the ceremony unique.
“The most important thing might be the language because we do that in German,” he said. “We never had thought to do that. It was more the community who said it’s a great opportunity to again listen to that because it reminds us of our times back in Germany.”
Rudiger Scholz, a German army chaplain, traveled to Fort Leonard Wood specifically to deliver the sermon in his native language.
When asked about the difference in how Germans and Americans worship, Veeck said the former tends to be subtler. “In Germany, it doesn’t look like a celebration,” he said.
Although the service was more traditional in nature, it was followed by a social event at the World War II Mess Hall with an impressive array of German food and drinks.
Bratwurst and gluehwein were the top choices under the red and white striped tent, while homemade potato salad and lentil soup highlighted the dishes available in the mess hall. Gluehwein is a classic German drink made from hot spiced wine and is sometimes mixed with juice depending on your taste, Veeck said.
The wine is typically served at Christmas markets, a tradition he remembers fondly.
“In the downtown of cities, they set up hundreds of little wooden huts,” he said, “In the middle, there is a huge Christmas tree, and everything is lit up. Each and every hut provides a different kind of food, drink or hand-crafted thing.” He explained that these markets are ideal for family outings and gluehwein is a drink some see as a symbolic reminder of them.
“Christmas market without gluehwein?” he asked rhetorically. “Unthinkable.”
Veeck said the German Christmas Service at Fort Leonard Wood is significant to him because of the memories it evokes.
“There’s just this one time in the year where we come together as a German community,” he said.
“To see how important it is for them, to celebrate that together and to be reminded of how it was back home in Germany, that actually means the most to me.”