This time of year always makes me think of Winter Ade, a German folk song based on a poem by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. When I was a kid, I used to love the verse that demanded "Aren't you going home soon? Even the cuckoo is laughing at you?" The truth is that all of those old German folk songs and stories own a lot bigger piece of my memory than any American ones do. My mother didn't know the American ones, so she taught me the songs and stories of her own childhood in Germany.
They are the songs and stories that shaped my childhood. In fact, one of my earliest recorded instances of moral outrage involves a folk song. Somewhere in a box in the garage, there is still a reel to reel tape of a three year old me breaking off singing a duet of Hänsel und Gretl with my mom to indignantly scream "böse böse Hexe!", when we got to the part about the witch.
My grandmother would tell me stories too whenever we visited her. I remember sitting out on her balcony as a child (usually with a piece of chocolate in hand), listening to her tell me various stories. She never read stories too me, but rather always told them from memory. Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten was a big favorite as were stories about the Schildbürger and also Schlemiel, but no matter which one she told, I always asked to hear this before going to bed:
There once was a man, he had seven sons. The seven sons, asked him: "Father, please tell us a story." And so the father began: "There once was a man, he had seven sons. The seven sons asked him: 'Father, please tell us a story.' And so the fateher began: "There once was a man..."
To my childish mind, this was the height of cleverness. It never failed to delight me. It still makes me smile to think about how patiently she would tell it over and over again, just to make me laugh. Perhaps those memories are why I grew up to enjoy folk tales and music as much as I do.
So, now hours after the sun has set, I'm off to do a little bedtime reading to end the day. Maybe, for old time's sake, I'll make it a Märchen.