Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Christmas in rural Austria is a return to the magic of childhood. Yes, there is a commercial aspect, but it ends exactly at 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve. From that time on, Christmas is all about church and family.
Before mass at 5:30 pm, nearly everyone visits the cemetery to light candles on the graves of their loved ones. Then the entire town proceeds to the church, not one by one, but as a whole community while a brass band plays a processional on the main square.
The (unheated!) church is ablaze with candles, even those decorating the Charlie Brown Christmas tree on the altar. Christmas carols played by a Styrian trio float down from the balcony. The air, thick with incense and pine, jingles with offerings well into the Communion liturgy. After being greeted, led in prayer, serenaded, absolved, blessed, and dismissed, the entire congregation meets outside on the street and disperses family by family to their individual Christmas dinners and gift exchanges.
After a hearty meal including all of the Austrian food groups (fried meat, potatoes, rice, and pumpkinseed oil), cherished gifts were given and received. Then I enjoyed the close harmony of a family singing songs both sacred and profane, accompanied by piano, guitar, Bohemian bagpipes and zither. When I walked home late that night, I reflected on the many wonderful gifts of God: good health, dear friends, close family, air travel, music, high mountains, bright stars and the Son.
Posted by JKS at 08:16