We had a lovely Christmas, thanks for asking. In the end. On December 23rd, we found ourselves with shopping left to do, a menu to plan and a tree to procure. Ai yai yai!
On December 22, Oma called from Ikea (did we mention that she recently became the owner of a cell phone?) to say that they were giving away Christmas trees. Awesome! Could she pick us one up? No, she was with a friend, in the friend’s car and they had no time for that. Hmmm. Then why call? OMA: They’re going fast, you should come get one now.
Yes, I see. A driving/shopping averse human was to brave rush hour traffic to go to IKEA of all places, just before Christmas. Not going to happen my friend.
Same day, Firstborn tells me that she has been all over town looking for a Lorde album but everyone was sold out. SWMBO wonders where she comes into this story. FIRSTBORN: So, I was wondering if you could maybe get it if you go to Walmart or Target?
Yes, I see. A driving/shopping averse human was to brave rush hour traffic to go to WALMART/TARGET of all places, just before Christmas. Not going to happen my friend.
Firstborn looked confused and said, “But you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping.” To which I replied, “Correct. It’s simple. It is now December 22nd and I haven’t finished my shopping. Ergo, there will be less gifts.”
Did I mention that I’ve already had cancer once? Or that I emphatically believe that Christmas is not about driving around parking lots looking for non-existant spaces and then wandering around big box stores like a Zombie asking yourself if you can use a box of giant bows as a present for someone.
The tree however, was a concern. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a real tree, is it? Not if you’ve always had a real tree. The sense of smell is so powerful and one whiff of a real tree can instantly put you in the Christmas spirit.
After weeks of the kids nagging me for a real tree, I finally felt ready to get one at 7:15 pm on December 23rd. Either that or I knew it was now or never. Because I had waited so long, Fahbio explained to me where the Christmas tree drop off was located. The drop off is the location where Christmas tree vendors dump unsold trees just before Christmas. Fahbio was away so Onlyboy and I were able to get there, select a tree, strap it to the roof of the van and be back home within half an hour. Free tree on our terms, not Ikea’s.
The kids had been feeding me sad stories all month about how deprived they were because the tree wasn’t up yet. Apparently every Christian and also every Christmas-celebrating heathen and probably even every Channukah-bush enthusiast had already mounted and decorated their evergreen trees. Did Fahbio and SWMBO feel guilty? Nope. Freaked out about how quickly Christmas was hurtling towards us? Sure. But guilty, no way.
Here’s why. SWMBO grew up in a family that celebrated Christmas the Austrian way. And Fahbio grew up in a family that celebrated the Italian way. Neither of us were wed to the “normal” Canadian tradition of putting up a Christmas tree around Hallowe’en.
Here is how it goes down in Austria. The morning of December 24 arrives and still there is no tree. In the afternoon, depending on the family and the age of its inhabitants, people lie down for a nap or maybe get together in the dining room for a board game. Or maybe they are in the kitchen preparing the Christmas meal.
Christkindl, a little blond (but never seen) young angel, sneaks in, puts up the Christmas tree, decorates it, lights the lights and places all the presents under it. Then he rings a little bell to let the family know he’s been and he disappears. Christkindl is literally the little Christ child. Think about Christkindl the next time you feel overwhelmed by the stuff you have to do at Christmas. You may also want to use the Christkindl as a threat to your kids if they are nagging you about getting a tree. Because in Austria, the kids never get to decorate the tree. How do they like them apples?
I leave you with a Christmas gift. I’ve decided to add a regular feature to the blog for 2015: traditional Austrian recipes. Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or whether you eat gluten/sugar/meat or whether you have any interest in Austrian cuisine. Don’t mention it.