My favourite season has begun: I love the pre-Christmas period. Even as a child, the time before Christmas Eve was something very special for me.
The “tranquil” period
The “tranquil” time began with a knock at the door. Every Thursday afternoon before Christmas we, my siblings and I went from house to house singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood. For our efforts, we either earned a few shillings, homemade cookies or perhaps some sweets. Afternoons spent around the tiled stove at home in the Tirolean parlour were always very cosy. During boardgames or while playing ‘Memory,’ the time flew by.
Frankincense & biscuits… This is how Christmas smells to me
After school we baked all sorts of Christmas biscuits. Either at home or at Grandma’s, everyone pitched in with the baking. My brothers and sisters always preferred to sample the cookies before they disappeared into cookie jars in the Christmas room. The entrance to the Christmas room was only for Christ Child, the presents were packed there and kept until Christmas Eve. Sometimes it smelled like incense from the Christmas room and thinking back, its as if I still have the smell stuck in my nose.
Saint Nicholas knew everything
The Advent calendar always came from Saint Nicholas. It was usually homemade and filled with sweets. He sometimes knocked on our front door or came by personally with a Saint Nicholas bag. Funny that Saint Nicholas always knew so much about our infamous deeds and that our grandfather never saw him? This secret was never revealed.
The scents of Christmas
On Advent Sundays, as soon as dusk set in, my siblings and I played music around the Advent wreath. My big brother and I played the recorder, not always without mistakes of course. Meanwhile, the rest of the family joined in by singing the old Christmas songs. To this day, I still have the booklet with the lyrics.
Dear Christ Child
Writing a letter to the Christ Child was always very important to us. Our many wishes were written on letter paper, decorated with drawings and deposited at the window sill for Christ Child. Sometimes I was quite disappointed when the letter was still there the next morning. Sometimes there was also an answer with golden writing or sometimes a blond hair was left behind. It’s unbelievable how much this meant to us.
A few days before Christmas we removed the nativity scene from the attic, cleaned it and placed it in the living room. It was festively decorated with the collected cones and pine branches. Baby Jesus was only placed in the crib on Christmas day.
Homemade biscuits were given away….
On the day of Christmas Eve, the anticipation was great from early in the morning. After breakfast we went out. If there was snow we went skiing or perhaps sledging behind the house. If it was still green at Christmas, we were allowed to feed the animals in grandpa’s stable. The Christmas program on TV was also a highlight, though we only had the two national TV channels to choose from. The Christmas fairy tales on channel ORF 1 were particularly enjoyable. My siblings and I never quarrelled either. My two younger siblings had to take a nap in the afternoon until they were 10 years old. We older kids were allowed to visit the neighbourhood during this time with Dad and distribute the homemade biscuits. This was also a particularly wonderful tradition.
Classic sausage soup on Christmas Eve….
The most exciting day of the year passed almost too slowly. I love to think back to the many wonderful traditions in our family. On Christmas Eve, there was always a sausage soup for dinner: a clear homemade beef soup with sausages. We children hardly ate much of it at all though: We were so excited! The anticipation of the ringing of a bell meant that the Christ Child had visited.
Oh, how the excitement built and built until we assembled, full of reverence, in the living room. The many lights on the Christmas tree, the scent of incense and biscuits, the packages under the tree… all this remains a beautiful memory.