Holidays with Erdt Family
In the midst of the holiday season, we sat down with Rhino defenseman Dominic Erdt to see how his family celebrates in Germany.
Like many Catholic families in the United States, the start of the Christmas holiday season—especially for children—is marked by the start of Advent in early December and St. Nikolaus Day on December 6. On that day, the children in the Erdt family typically receive candy, peanuts, mandarin oranges and a small gift.
Despite observing the feast day of St. Nick, also known as Santa Claus in the West, Santa doesn’t stop by the Erdt house on Christmas Eve. Some German families do adopt Santa as part of their holiday tradition, but for Dominic’s family, Christkind is Christmas’ gift-giver. In German, Christkind translates to ‘Christ-child’ and across Europe, he is described as a blonde, child-like figure that resembles Christ as a child. For many in Germany, Christkind is slightly different; she is a specific female angel, with Christ-like qualities instead of a depiction of infant Christ.
When Dominic was a child, just before Christmas, he prepared a Wishlist and sat it on the balcony for Christkind. Shortly thereafter, his living room was closed for a week and a blanket was draped over the glass door so he could not see inside. He was frequently reminded that if he stayed near the living room, Christkind would not come. On Christmas Eve, the living room was reopened to display the gifts Christkind had secretly delivered.
For the Erdt household, children did not help with Christmas decorating. Instead, they waited for Christkind to deliver the décor as well as the gifts. Unlike the tradition of decorating the outside of the house, Dominic says that’s not common in Germany. His family keeps their décor simple by setting up a small nativity scene near their Christmas tree inside. The tree is topped with a star and adorned with candles and ornaments. They also hang an advent calendar that counts down to Christmas day.
Presents are opened on the night of Dec. 24 and Christmas day is reserved for family time. After his sister arrives, Dominic’s family starts the day with breakfast and maybe a trip to church, before finishing the day at their grandparents’ house with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Traditionally, they enjoy Raclette, which refers to both the cheese and the dish made with it. In addition to melted cheese, the meal can include beef, ham, bacon, corn, pineapple, paprika, and mushrooms along with sides of potatoes and bread. Sauces, like spicy ketchup and ranch, also accompany the dish. The Erdt family also makes Gingerbread and Dominic’s sister has inherited the tradition of baking and decorating platzchen (a Christmas cookie) from their mom.
For Dominic, the highlight of the holidays is spending time with family, and specifically visiting his grandmother who lives an hour away. Each year, he gifts her with a recent photo and flowers. He also fondly remembers his favorite Christmas gift, which was the Mario Kart game for the Wii console, given to him by his parents when he was seven or eight years old. He admits that he still plays when he has the chance.
Following Christmas, like the rest of the world, Germans’ attention turns to the next holiday: New Year’s Day. For Dominic, a German New Year’s Eve is celebrated like it is in America. He has dinner at around 6 pm before ringing in the new year at midnight by watching fireworks and enjoying time with family and friends. While it’s customary to make a new year’s resolution, Dominic says he doesn’t really believe in them. He admits that there has only been one resolution at which he was successful in maintaining, and that was making better grades when he was in elementary school. This year, he said he’ll likely skip the resolution-making.
The American Adjustment & Rhino Hockey
For defenseman Dominic Erdt, his second year with the Rhinos has already been significantly different from his first season. When he first arrived in El Paso, he admits, the transition was difficult. “I was 17 and it was not easy. It was my first time away from home. And in Germany, we were not practicing so hard and not throwing so much body. Here, we had smaller ice too. It was hard.” Former Rhino netminder and fellow German, Nils Velm, helped Erdt acclimate to El Paso and to Rhino Country. “At the time, Nils [Velm] was the only German here. I was thinking about going home but he helped me stay here. It was good having someone from your country, speaking your language. Last season, my English wasn’t as good, and it was nice to hear how he felt about his first time in America.”
Despite now being well-adjusted to an American lifestyle, he admits there are several significant cultural differences that he finds odd. In Germany, residents cannot drive until they turn 18, however they can drink at 16 years of age. Of course, Americans can drive at 16, but cannot drink legally until they turn 21. He is also somewhat surprised at how many fast food chains there are in the United States. He estimates that there are fewer than ten McDonald’s in Augsburg for a population of about 300,000. Similarly, in his hometown of Kissing, there are hardly any fast food restaurants and sit-down eateries are much more common. But whether fast food or a sit-down meal, he has also come to enjoy authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex here in the borderland. Chipotle is his favorite. His go-to order is a burrito with chicken and white rice, no beans, cheese, sour cream and lettuce, accompanied by a Mr. Pibb.
On the hockey front, Erdt has also adapted to his role on the ice—and rather well. He is a self-described offensive defenseman who tries to be the fourth player in the breakout, and, in doing so, he has become an asset to the Rhinos’ offense. In his first 33 games played this season, he already has 31 points, which is only five points off his total last season. On the team, he is currently the second ranked defenseman in total points scored and is among the top five leading scorers. He isn’t satisfied with his accomplishments, however. “I work on getting better every day at practice. I try to do my best every day. I also want more goals and I want to work on my shot.” Similarly, he knows that being one of the team’s few veterans heightens the expectations. “I was one of the youngest guys last year and I just tried to learn from the older players. Now I’m one of the leaders and I try to show the younger guys what to do and what they can do better.” Regardless of being a veteran or a rookie, Erdt explains that all Rhinos are here for one purpose. “We all have the same goal: to win Thorne.”
After he finishes his junior career, he hopes to continue his hockey career at the pro level in Germany. He is also considering becoming a police officer when he decides to hang up his skates. In fact, he has already passed the exam needed to become a German police officer, but decided to play hockey in Rhino Country instead of following the law enforcement career path at the time.