Every year, when the first snow falls, I get so excited I feel like a little kid again.
Memories of childhood and family and friends, both here and past, come flooding back to me with every snowflake that falls. Each one its own unique smile that helps to warm my heart when the weather turns cold.
I think I get this excitement from my dad. One of my first memories is of us outside during a snowfall that I can only assume must have been the first of the season since there wasn’t really much, if any, on the ground. Dad stood just in front of the stoop holding me in his arms with mine stretched out to try to catch a snowflake, his baritone voice excitedly saying, “Es ist Schnee Katie! See? Es ist Schnee!” This is something we still do today.
On the first snow of the season, no matter how light it may be, we call each other and shout “Es ist Schnee!”. This German phrase translates to “It’s snowing!” in English. When I was young my dad thought it was important for me to learn some phrases in German, since he was very involved in the German cultural community in our area since his childhood. This is one of the few phrases I still remember without any problem and use almost every time it snows.
When the snow would start to fly, my dad would make hot chocolate, coco, to warm my brother and I up after an often long day of cutting, hauling and stacking wood to stoke the hearth fires throughout the winter to come.
He would go to the basement and chock the furnace full of fresh cut cherry and ash, they smell the best, then come to the kitchen to put on a pot of coco. I would perch myself on the heat register in the kitchen, dressed in my favorite footy pajamas after a nice hot bath waiting for the wood in the furnace to light, wrapped up in a blanket with my beloved best friend Spunky, our dog that my parents let my brother and I name after a horse in a Shirley Temple movie.
Dad would bring the stool he had from his mother’s house to the kitchen and sit in front of the stove to watch the coco that was heating and play some music on his guitar to entertain himself. After a few minutes I would stand up and start dancing around to the music while the snow fell outside and the smell of creamy coco filled the air.
We always knew when the coco was about ready because that was when Dad put his guitar away and got out the heavy cream, a bowl and the manual hand mixer. This was my favorite part! We always made homemade whipped cream to go on top of our homemade hot coco.
Dad would pour the cream into the bowl and then have me stand on the stool where he would put his hands over mine and let “me” whip it up. When the cream had been whipped almost to perfection, Dad would take over while I got out the coco mugs. He would serve it up to the family and we would all laugh about the antics of the day and the inevitable whipped cream mustaches we would all end up with.
The tradition of coco on the day of the first snowfall of the season was so dear to me I took it with me when I went away to college; which proved to be a good thing since I decided to go to school in Edinboro, Pa, where it is constantly either raining or snowing.
My first year at Edinboro was my first winter away from home, and when the snow began to fall I realized how much I missed home. This was the first time I called my dad to say, “Es ist Schnee Vati! Es ist Schnee!” He was so excited that I called he got a little choked up. After he got his bearings again, he asked if I was going to have some coco?
I hadn’t really thought about it, but I did have a few packets of instant coco and 2 coffee mugs in my room. I asked my roommate if she would like to have some coco with me, and while we were drinking our coco a couple more girls from our dorm stopped by the room to say how good it smelled. I explained to each one about my family’s coco tradition and invited them to join.
This tradition grew with each heavy snowfall to include up to 20 people joining in every time there was a large snow storm. We would gather either in my room or my friend’s apartment and watch movies and drink coco until we eventually passed out from staying up too late talking and having fun.
From this experience, my best friends from college and I have enormous mug collections, which, to our dismay, our significant others just don’t seem to understand.
To this day, when it snows for the first time, my 2 best friends from college will call and let me know that they are having coco and were thinking of me. It gives us a reason to chat and catch up at least once a year, even though we are scattered all over the country.
You see, for my friends and family, snow and winter aren’t things to be dreaded and complained about, but rather a time of year that brings us closer together through coco, snow and love.
I hope that when the snow starts to fly, it brings with it wonderful memories for you and your family. I also hope that you will be inspired to start small winter traditions that can create memories to will last a lifetime.