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Euch zu gefallen war mein Höchster Wunsch,
THE STRANGER’S GIFT.
It is probably known to many of my readers, that in Germany, Christmas time is rendered peculiarly interesting and delightful, by the combination of many religious and social blessings and enjoyments; that almost every family has its Christmas tree covered with a hundred lights and many beautiful gifts, and surrounded generally by a little group of happy beings, and that friends and neighbors with holy rapture then remind each other of the blessed tidings that "the Saviour is born."
These and many similar customs which have been handed down from antiquity, and preserved by the kindly disposition of the people, are probably generally known; but only he whose childhood has been passed in Germany, can know how fondly the heart loves to dwell again and again on these successive celebrations.
The time may have gone by, when you counted the number of your years by the several Christmas trees, which, as if by enchantment, flourished every year with new lights and new gifts, but not so the childlike spirit which a parent's love then planted in your hearts. The mother's eye, in which the reflection of the child's joy shone with increased splendoras on the smooth surface of the lake, the image seems more beautiful than the object which it represents,that eye may have closed forever; but the scenes on which it once smiled, and the intensity of affection which these scenes served to excite and foster in the child, have not passed away. They have pervaded his whole being; they have filled him with enthusiasm for every good and perfect deed, and—however lonely he may appear—they are his constant and delightful companions, which seem to become dearer to him in the same degree as the world around him is incapable of enjoying them with him.
As the dangerous roads and steep precipices which threatened the wanderer on his ascending course, appear like smooth paths on the margin of beautiful rivers and lakes, when he has reached the top of the high mountain, so does each new anniversary of these domestic festivals become a season of serene repose, in which all the joys of your past life, and the many sorrows which have been turned into joys, present themselves; and the
simple fact that they are past seems to confer on them new-life and beauty. Desirous of shadowing forth to others, by some outward act, the happiness which you yourself enjoy, you make again some humble gift the faint emblem by which you express to the friends who have sped your homeward course, how much you owe to their love.
It is to recollections like these that the Stranger's Gift owes its origin. It is offered to those who have cheered the stranger's path through the foreign land, and who, in return, will kindly receive this token that they are remembered by him. He approaches them once more as a stranger, since at the time of Christmas, he can only feel at home among the scenes of the past; yet he indulges the hope that this Gift will serve to strengthen the ties by which he is united to them, that it will bring him near to many a kindred mind, to whom he is now a stranger in the literal sense of the word, and finally, that the spirit in which this Gift is presented will testify to the truth that we all are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth.