I was greeted this morning (24th Dec) by my nine year old daughter with the words ‘I can’t wait for Christmas this evening’. She was refereeing to the arrival of Christkindl here in Austria with her first group of presents.
After Christkindl drops by and leave the presents, the wider family will gather together (as many Austrian families do on the 24th Dec) for an evening meal, a little wine or beer, as well as the exchange and opening of presents. Traditionally, such gatherings leave people free to attend church and spend time with the immediate family on Christmas day. Although church membership (in Catholic Austria you are a paid up member) is on the decline, many people do attend mass on the 25th.
Tomorrow I will be awoken by my daughter with the cry of ‘it’s Christmas!’ and in our household ‘English Christmas’ will begin. Father Christmas will have swung by on his way back from Britain and left the second group of presents under the Christmas tree. The morning will then be a mix of playing and frantic cooking to prepare for the arrival of our guests. As many of our friends have already had their ‘family Christmas’ the night before it means that (unlike the rare occasions when we are in England at this time of year) people are free to join us on Christmas day. So for us the tradition has been established that we prepare an ‘English Christmas dinner’ which we share with friends on Christmas afternoon followed by any evening of merriment as the children play with the new toys and adults chat over a glass of wine.
For us maintaining, sharing and blending the family’s two cultures enriches life all year round.