By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public AffairsDecember 6, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Falling snow, Christmas carols and welcome cups of hot drinks created the perfect setting to bring U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Grafenwoehr and its host nation neighbors together for the annual Christmas tree lighting, here, Dec. 4. Another tree lighting ceremony was held on the Rose Barracks side of USAG Grafenwoehr Dec. 6.
In the crowd of onlookers, parents snuggled up against their well-wrapped children or hoisted them up on their shoulders for a better view of the soon-to-be-lit tree and carolers from Grafenwoehr Elementary School, Netzaberg Elementary School and Netzaberg Middle School.
Though the temperature was biting, the carolers, decked in Santa hats and bells, kept performance-ready smiles on their faces and their energy bright as they sang Christmas classics, like "Frosty the Snowman."
After welcoming words from Helmuth Waechter, mayor of Grafenwoehr, Col. Bryan Rudacille, commander of the Joint Multinational Training Command, took the stage to laud the ever-growing relationship between the Americans and Germans in eastern Bavaria.
"This celebration reflects not just our strong partnership, but the lasting German-American friendship we enjoy here in our community," said Rudacille.
Those too far away to ring in Christmas in Grafenwoehr were acknowledged for their sacrifices during the holiday season.
"As we light the tree tonight, I ask you to please take a moment to think of those German and American Soldiers and civilians who are currently serving in distant lands or in harm's way, especially the Soldiers of HHC, 18th CSSB, and 702nd EOD out of Grafenwoehr," said Rudacille.
But, before the tree could be lit, three guests of honor had to appear. Santa Claus, Saint Nikolaus and Rudolf had got stuck at the gate. Apparently, sleighs aren't allowed on post.
When they finally arrived in a wailing fire truck, the children started shrieking. And when Santa and Saint Nikolaus strode from their vehicle to the crowd, the yelps turned to excited screams.
Two lucky children, Elizabeth Rowland, 6, and Justin Thiel, 7, a local national visiting post for the tree lighting, were christened as "Santa's little helpers" and assisted Santa and Saint Nikolaus in lighting the tree.
"It was awesome," said Skylar Gannon, 10, about the moment the tree lit up. "The tree gets so pretty and colorful."
Once the little helpers lit the tree, Santa and Saint Nikolaus received visitors. Smaller children sat on their laps while larger ones flashed toothy grins and posed for pictures. Everyone received small bags filled with chocolates, clementines and gummy bears.
For Nicholas Gannon, 13, the ceremony was the perfect start to his choice season.
"Christmas is my favorite holiday," he said. "The main reason is seeing people's faces when you give them presents and being with my family."