The Three Days of Christmas

21 Dec

It’s a cool evening on the solstice in Vienna.  I am tucked away in my room in the midst of a bustling city preparing for the holidays. Christmas trees are being sold on every corner and the Christkindl markets are still in full swing.

Today I returned from a one-night get-away with my generous hosts here in Vienna.  We snuck away to a neighboring town, met with friends, and attended a holiday concert featuring… Irish Music.  This event has become an annual tradition in my hosts’ household, each year showcasing a new selection of traditional and more contemporary Celtic music.  This year three groups were featured, my favorite being the vibrant sounds of Beoga.  They were the last act of the evening and when their music burst into the room the feeling was… Yes!  Their sound was fresh, fun and alive…in a traditional Irish sort of way.

There was some strange weather in the air this solstice weekend.  It began with the explosion of color in the sky at sunset that looked like lava flooding the clouds.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  I was told it came from warm air that is somehow distinct because of the surrounding mountains.  This picture below doesn’t do it justice, but gives you an idea of what it was like.

Fire Clouds

Fire Clouds

Earlier this week I took a little departure to the Christkindel market at the Schonbrunn Palace. It was an impressive welcome with the Palace and grand traditional Christmas tree.  I took in what has now become the familiar elements of an Austrian Christmas Market…  the holiday Punch, a spicy wine concoction; holiday favorites like goulash soup and, my favorite, roasted chestnuts. The goods at the market reflected Austria’s serious approach to the holidays with its traditional Christmas gems and crafts.  It’s quite a treat to just hop on the underground and be able take in events such as this.

Christkindel Market Schonbrunn Palace

Christkindl Market Schonbrunn Palace

Today has been a quieter day for me with a simple stroll around my Vienna neighborhood and lunch at a local eatery.  I still appreciate just the simple beauty of Vienna and my neighborhood.  It’s great to have a quiet day simply to just take it in.  Here are a few photos.

My neighborhood in Vienna My neighborhood in Vienna

Today at lunch, as I was preparing to leave the restaurant, the owner handed me my left-overs bundled up and ready to go.  He was so kind and I wanted to show my appreciation. I had to laugh as my natural inclination after nearly two years in South Korea is still to… bow… and I did, without even thinking about it.  In truth I am still a big fan of the bow… as well as the two-handed Korean wave good-bye.  I suppose new habits die-hard.

Bye the time I leave Austria, I imagine my greeting and leaving habits will be all twisted up.  In both Korea and Austria the familiar American hug is often met with suspicion and confusion.  I can still remember the time I innocently reached out to hug a young Korean friend after sharing a personal moment.  As I went for the hug I saw the look of horror in her eyes. I quickly pulled back recalling, that’s right… in Korea you don’t hug.  In Austria one says hello and good-bye with a handshake or a kiss on each cheek.  It is still a bit odd for me negotiating with new friends and acquaintances what is appropriate.  I am sure wherever I am next, I will carry over these Austrian traditions and be some sort of a multi-cultural hugging, bowing, kissing American.

Christmas now is just a few days away.  I am grateful to be spending the holidays in Vienna in the comforts of my new “home” and host family.  Christmas is a little different here.  In total, there are sort of three days of Christmas in Austsria. Typically, the 24th is the big family celebration and that is the day presents are exchanged.  The presents are not delivered by Santa Claus but instead by the Christkindl, a symbolic figure who I am told looks like an angel sort of person with blond hair.  Here is an image I found of the Christkindle.  The following days, Dec. 25 and 26th, are also official holidays and typically spent more relaxed in the company of family and holiday food.

Christkindl

Christkindl

Ah, so now a bit more time relaxing into my evening.  What about you, what will you do for this holiday?  Any new traditions?  It’s always great to hear from you!