It’s time for the annual media kerfuffle over what to call the evergreens that we bring indoors at Yuletide. If for you, nothing evokes the spirit of the season like a few bars of “O Tannenbaum,” and if the perfect Christmas scene in your head is that whole landscape full of Tannenbäume that constitutes the Black Forest, then you’re in luck: Trinity Lutheran Church in Kingston is presenting a candlelight service in German this Sunday afternoon, officially titled a “Deutscher Weihnachtsgottesdienst.”
For the non-German-speakers, let’s just call this a German Christmas Service. It kicks off with a performance at 1:30 p.m. by the Kingston High School Brass Ensemble. The service of seasonal religious readings begins at 2 p.m. and will incorporate vocal duets by Jerry and Delphine Hoch. Then comes a short concert by the Kingston Maennerchor & Damenchor, winding up at about 3 p.m. The whole thing is performed by candlelight, to supply a real old-fashioned Christmasy atmosphere.
More translation needed here: A “Maennerchor” literally means a men’s chorus, and a “Damenchor” a women’s chorus, but there’s a lot more to the tradition than that. When German immigrants settled in the northeastern US in centuries past, they formed these local “singing societies” as social clubs dedicated to the preservation of German culture and heritage in their communities, analogous to a Knights of Columbus lodge for Italian enclaves or Order of Hibernians for Irish immigrants. A Maennerchor’s performance space typically included a restaurant and bar serving German foods and beers. They are commonly found in Pennsylvania, but the Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor Inc., founded in 1868, is known as “the longest continuously active ethnic benevolent organization in Ulster County.”
The German Christmas Service on Sunday, December 18 at Trinity Lutheran Church, located at 72 Spring Street in Kingston, is sponsored by the Kingston Maennerchor & Damenchor, the Steuben Society of America’s Unit #50 and the German-American Club of the Northern Catskills. For more information, call (845) 586-2246.