Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grandma Peterson and the Recycled Christmas Card

Grandma Peterson got started right away introducing her new granddaughter Peggy to the affairs of the family. Her first order of business was to describe her six week trip to Germany with Peggy’s Aunt Lyda. The introduction was done in the form of a recycled Christmas Card. The card was sent to Peggy’s mother to celebrate the birth of Peggy.

Margaret (McCain) Peterson was Peggy’s paternal grandmother. Born in January 1868 in Pennsylvania she was the child or grandchild of Irish immigrants. US Federal Census records show conflicting information regarding the places of her parents’ births. About 1892 Margaret married Edwin Lewis Peterson. They had at least three children: Cora born in 1893, Lyda born in 1896 and Peggy’s father, Edwin Jr., born in 1902.

You might think a recycled Christmas card would be a strange thing to send someone when they have a baby. But something more is going on here. Peggy was born in June 1940. The Christmas card was sent from Germany in 1928. Clearly the card was important enough to save for those 12 years. Why did Peggy’s Grandmother choose to send it at her birth?

The front of the Christmas/birth card shows an etching of Pension Daheim, Haus Anton Lang, No. 19 in Oberammergau. The etching is of a beautiful home with a turret on one side and Crosses in numerous places, including the roof. The inside of the card presents a lengthy poem/ Christmas greeting in English from Anton and Mathilde Lang of Pension Daheim, Oberammergau.

Grandma Peterson tells “my darling little granddaughter” that “Lyda and I had spent six weeks in their Pension Daheim. Found them delightful.”

What was so special about Pension Daheim and the Langs that Grandma wanted to share with her granddaughter? Well, it turns out Anton Lang was very special indeed. Anton was born in Oberammergau in 1877, the son of Rochus Lang, a potter.

Obergammergau is the site of a passion play peformed every ten years. According to Wikipedia, “The town vowed that if God were to spare them from the effects of the bubonic plague ravaging the region, they would perform a play every ten years depicting the life and death of Jesus.” In 1633 the village believed they were spared from the plague and performed their first play in 1634. According to the same source, the “most recent performance took place in 2000 and the next will be…in 2010."

Anton Lang was selected in 1900 to play the role of Christ. He would serve three times for a span of almost 25 years. Anton married Mathilda Rutz, daughter of Jacob Rutz, leader of the chorus in the Passion Play. Mrs. Lang was fluent in English having spent time in England prior to their marriage. While Mr. Lang became a potter like his father, Mrs. Lang established a boarding house and had “a gift of making every one feel at home.”

In a 1922 article in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (Volume 104) an article describes Anton at the time of his last performance. The author said, “When I took my leave he [Lang] spoke particularly of his many friends in America, and expressed gratitude for the kindness they have shown him, and for the appreciation they have brought to the life-work of Obergammergau and its people.”

Anton Lang was even featured in a May 12, 1930 article “Religion: In Oberammergau” in Time Magazine. An August 7, 1969 article in the Mouse River Farmers Press mentions a visit by some Americans to Obergammergau: “One of their most memorable experiences was meeting and visiting with the widow of Anton Lang, the man who played the part of Christ in the Passion Play three sesasons. Mrs. Lang, now over 80, lives in a pension at Daheim.”

Perhaps Grandma Peterson had seen one of the Passion Plays herself or perhaps she was taken by the kindness of the Langs. Either way the event impacted her life in such a way that she wanted to share it right away with her new granddaughter.


  1. Nice story. I just ran across your blog, trying to figure out where a picture was taken of my mother and brothers when I was a boy. I knew it was in Germany, because that's where my father was stationed in the Army in 1958. And it says "Pension Daheim" on the building. And it just happens to be that exact building in the postcard! Thanks!

    Frank Warner

    my email is wakingup (at) ptd (dot) com. If you write, use the @ and . in the email.

  2. My husband's father: John Bischof (later changed to Bishop) had an extended stay at Pension Daheim in the late 1920's/early 30's. Tante Anna (?) was the widow of Anton Lang. The family virtually adopted John Bishop, Sr. When Jack (John, Jr.) and I visited first in 1968, we were welcomed as family by the extended Lang family...beautiful people. John Sr.'s daughter Teresa was named after the Lang daughter. In 1985 we returned with our daughters to Oberammergau. We plan to return again in April...can't wait. Sadly, Pension Daheim is no long a 'pension'.

  3. Thanks for your comment! What wonderful memories for your family!