Many of our Christmas traditions come from the Germans. It is only fair to give our neighborhood's settlers due for their ancestors' contributions to the holiday.

Many of our Christmas traditions come from the Germans. It is only fair to give our neighborhood's settlers due for their ancestors' contributions to the holiday.

The Germans basically can claim credit for both Santa Claus and the Christmas tree, two major components of the Christmas season. All things considered, it's quality and not quantity that matter with these things.

Villagers of years past would likely have walked to holiday services, either at St. Mary Catholic Church, Trinity Lutheran Church or Livingston United Methodist Church (when it was at Third and Livingston across from Katzinger's Delicatessen), with extended family and in the company of friends. This was long before Interstate 70 passed through, back when the neighborhood enjoyed a seamless connectivity to downtown.

Family meals would have been enjoyed with food not prepared by local bistros or specialty shops, but purchased at local butchers and markets and prepared at home over the course of hours. (Incidentally, this still happens today, but who can resist the ability to pick up delicious meals at any one of the countless options we have in and around German Village?)

The homes would no doubt still have looked like gingerbread houses - a favorite feature of mine today. And people may have walked their Christmas trees home much as I did when I lived on Willow Street and bought my tree at St. Mary church each year.

In many ways, I'm betting German Village is much the same today as it always has been this time of year. Traditions and meals have been shared among neighbors, the same songs have been sung in our neighborhood churches and by carolers on the same streets and villagers (yesterday's South Enders) find a way to celebrate with each other in a way that other neighborhoods just don't "get."

Sure, Santa and the Christmas tree are a big deal, but they certainly aren't the only deal. This time of year, people everywhere celebrate qualities of life that villagers are fortunate to enjoy and recognize day in and day out.

Villagers have successfully preserved not just the neighborhood's architecture, but also the appreciation for simpler things and the utmost quality of life. As dramatic as things can seem in the village, we all take the time each year to attend the Christmas tree lighting, take a covered dish to a potluck and stroll the village looking at holiday lights. These are simple joys that highlight the very best we have to offer and they are just some of the many things to be thankful for this holiday season.

So, Merry Christmas! And remember to raise a glass to past villagers at your holiday meal this year. They deserve credit for so much of what our neighborhood is today and it is our job to remember them, their contributions and their spirit of community.

Jody Graichen is director of Historic Preservation Programs for the German Village Society.