Sam Bauman: ‘O Tannenbaum’ in my window space |

Sam Bauman: ‘O Tannenbaum’ in my window space

Sam Bauman

A few weeks ago I signed up for a modest senior free gift offer at the senior center. Despite my irreligious status, I asked for a mini Christmas tree.

Last week I responded to a knock on my door and found a large package there. Opening the big plastic bag, I found happily to my surprise there was a nice two-foot Christmas tree, complete with electric bulbs and decorations. Not elaborate, but right for my apartment. Just the right size for me.

The mini tree now sits on my living room window ledge, and when I plug it in, it emits a feel and look of Christmas. I thank the group who sent the tree, nobody signed anything. Whoever you are, fröhliche Weihnachten! Strange for a man who has no religious faith other than a nodding bow to Buddhism, acquired during years of living in Tokyo.

But memories die hard, and I look back to youthful family days when searching and finding the perfect fir was a happy outing. Or youth days when the green stranger came to us Christmas Eve, before Christmas became a monthlong event. Living in Germany had minor problems with getting a tree, but back in the USA all that was required was finding a place where guests were allowed to saw away and tote the tree home lashed to the car roof.

Now I salute the holiday season with a lighted tree saluting the parking lot and the big MAC municipal exercise center 50 yards away.

Is it hypocritical to show the tree as if affirming a belief? I don’t think so. It’s pretty and lights up the living room as I read a book. And it makes a cozy addition to the apartment.

I recall high school days when we sang “O Tannenbaum” in chorus, never mind restrictions to religion in schools.

So I’m looking forward to having guests in for holiday cheer, letting them enjoy my tree. We may even sing a carol or two if someone can remember the words. (I’ll add “Tannenbaum” lyrics here later). I guess I could get much of the same feeling by buckling up my cross-country skis and finding a woods to ski through. Not much green with the snowfall, but it’s lovely scenery and you can work up a bit of dampness.

When we were living in Munich, we had some East European friends whose daughter Brunhilde often baby-sat for us. On Christmas Eve, they joined us to open gifts and sing some carols. They knew “Tannenbaum,” despite religious restrictions back East.

Here are the lyrics and credits:

“O Christmas Tree” in German

Text: Ernst Anschütz, 1824

Melody: Volksweise (traditional)

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,

wie treu sind deine Blätter.

Du grünst nicht nur

zur Sommerzeit,

Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

wie treu sind deine Blätter.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

How loyal are your leaves/needles.

You’re green not only

in the summertime,

No, also in winter when it snows.

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree

How loyal are your leaves/needles.

And as a bonus, here are the lyrics to probably the most popular Christmas carol. The song we sing today is slightly different from the original version of “Stille Nacht.” It’s believed folk singers and choir groups altered the original melody slightly as they performed the carol throughout Europe in the ensuing decades.

The English version we know today was written by the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young. However, the standard English version contains just three verses, whereas the German version contains six. Only verses one, six, and two from the original Joseph Mohr version are sung in English.

There’s an interesting binaural version of this song as well on the Internet. You will hear the English text in your left ear and simultaneously the German text in your right ear. Get your headphones and give it a minute to get used to this new approach.

There’s also a version sung by Nina Hagen, an opera prodigy. But fear not, it’s actually sweet to listen to.


Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816 (Don’t think a translation is needed.)

Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.

Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Hirten erst kundgemacht

Durch der Engel Halleluja,

Tönt es laut von fern und nah:

Christ, der Retter ist da!

Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht

Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,

Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.

Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.