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COPPERAS COVE — A bearded figure wielding a staff greeted children at The Holy Family Catholic Church in Copperas Cove for its annual German holiday tea Sunday afternoon.
“St. Nikolaus was a bishop who helped the poor,” said organizer Bettina Blackburn.
St. Nikolaus Tag (St. Nicholas’ Day) is celebrated Dec. 6 in Germany. According to legend, the bishop would give out nuts, apples and oranges, Blackburn said.
In modern times, children leave their shoes outside their bedrooms to be filled with treats from the figure. Like Santa Claus, St. Nikolaus ensures children are well-behaved in order to receive his gifts. In some cultures, St. Nikolaus travels with a companion who punishes the poorly behaved youth.
Blackburn began hosting the church event seven years ago to allow the German community to come together to celebrate during the holidays.
“It’s a melting pot here,” Blackburn said of the Central Texas community, and the holiday tea has become a way for the local Germans to practice their traditions. “We like to sing and speak German amongst ourselves (at these times).”
Before the crowd of both congregants and community members, a trio sang German advent songs as attendees ate christstollen and drank gluhwein.
Christstollen is the German version of fruitcake, often filled with marzipan, said Annie McGuire, a native German who has spent the past 33 years in the area.
Along with eating traditional holiday treats, McGuire enjoys the sing-along.
“It’s wonderful,” she said, of the opportunity to hear songs from her native country.
In the kitchen, Karen Kennedy stirred the gluhwein, a hot wine mulled with juice and spices.
The church has approximately 100 German congregants, Kennedy said. She is the church secretary, and has lived in Copperas Cove for 40 years now.
At the beginning of March, the church will host a masquerade ball for Fasching, Germany’s pre-Lent carnival celebration.