My mother-in-law has gotten years of mileage out of that pun. As I understand it, German-style fruitcake — stollen — was always a big thing in my wife’s family, and I find that interesting since they’re a very Irish lot. But then Stollen was also a big thing in my own mother’s family, especially where my grandmother was concerned. She was Irish as Paddy’s proverbial pig, yet it simply wasn’t Christmas unless she had a slice of stollen from Meyer’s deli up on Chicago’s northwest side (even today the counter help are mostly German speakers).
I’ve always wondered at that, i.e. why stollen is so popular among the Irish (or at least the ones I know) in Chicago. Germans and Irish were the largest immigrant groups in Chicago until the Italians, and then later the Poles, arrived. And while they technically did get along, there was always a certain tension between them, tension which was at least partly due to the fact that Protestant Germans cheerfully drank beer in the parks on Sunday afternoons, while envious Irish Catholics grudgingly had to go without.
Immigrant Irish were also generally poorer as a group than their German counterparts, so there was probably more than a little resentment there too. And of course that disparity revealed itself in the way they celebrated Christmas. From my own personal observations, Christmas in Irish households was always a more austere event than in German ones. On Christmas Eve particularly, most Irish families I knew ate plain (sometimes even cold) soup while the Germans busted out the gingerbread and mulled wine and toasted one another by the fire, singing songs. Of course it wasn’t all economic. Meager Christmas Eve celebrations have deep religious symbolism for Irish Catholics. But I’ve come to wonder if just maybe sneaking a piece of stollen was the Irish way of horning on a bit of the German fun. Quietly though, so the Pastor of the local parish wouldn’t notice.