I have always loved Christmas. As a child, it was the most magical time of the year for me, perhaps because I believed in the Christkind (christ child), our version of Santa Claus, until I was 10 years old. Even though my classmates in primary school regularly told me that it didn’t actually exist, I didn’t want to hear any of it. Instead, I enjoyed exchanging letters with the Christkindhelfer (christ child’s helper), who I imagined living in our attic, and always found little goodies in my advent calendar every morning before I had to go to school. Every 23rd of December, my parents spent the whole night decorating the christmas tree without me knowing it, covered the window of the living room door with wrapping paper and locked the room. In the morning, I would get up and try to peek through the keyhole and, sometimes, could even see some of the presents and a few tree branches. On Christmas Eve, I was later told, one of my parents always left church a bit earlier than the rest of our family to prepare the living room to look like the christ child had just left. Once I entered the house, of course full of anticipation of which presents had been left underneath the tree for me, I heard a bell ringing upstairs, as well as lovely Christmas music playing in our living room. Often without taking my shoes off, I would sprint upstairs in order to catch the christ child “in the act.” Unfortunately, every year, I was only able to see its wings disappearing into the darkness outside. Since I was so convinced that the christ child was real, my parents decided to tell me the truth before I started high school so my classmates wouldn’t make fun of me. Even though I was upset for a while, I still love Christmas, and am so grateful that my parents went to great lengths to make sure I had the most magical holidays as a child.
Even though I know that the christ child, as well as Santa, are made up, Christmas is still my favorite holiday of the year because of how the holiday season makes me feel. Even as a child, Christmas in our family wasn’t primarily about receiving presents and getting more presents than all the other children in my class. Instead, the focus was on spending quality time together. On Christmas Eve (which we call Heiliger Abend – Holy Evening), which is when we open presents in Austria, my mother and I would always play Christmas songs together on the piano and the flute respectively, while the rest of the family sang along. We would read christmas stories to each other and I even performed little plays or my own poems as soon as I was a bit older. Christmas celebrations, however, weren’t limited to that evening. They started with me baking many different kinds of Christmas cookies with my grandmother, probably as early as mid-November, many visits to all the Christmas markets in Vienna and Lower Austria, and our family lighting candles on our advent wreath each Advent Sunday until at least the beginning of January, when the old christmas tree was collected by the municipality.
Today, Christmas still isn’t only a welcome break from my stressful work life (many people take two weeks off from Christmas Eve on December 24th until January 6th, which is Three Wise Men’s Day here in Austria), but also escaping to a magical world, which is filled with so much happiness. Even though I don’t want Christmas to be all about receiving gifts, it gives me so much joy coming up with presents for my family. This year, my goal is to primarily give handmade gifts, and I’m still hoping to somehow manage to make all of them in time. Since it is already mid-November, I have to admit that I am slowly freaking out, but I won’t give up until it is time to leave for my grandmother’s house, where the whole family usually celebrates together, on December 24th. My main priority is finishing my grandmother’s pullover, which I will probably talk about more in detail in a separate post, but I am also planning on sewing all the men in my family ties and knit the other women in my family accessories. Additionally, I might make little hardcover notebooks for everyone. I certainly wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. I will certainly keep you updated on my gift-knitting/sewing/making progress on my podcast, especially in my Vlogmas videos, which I am hoping to record in the lead-up to Christmas.