Christmas here in Austria is very special. I was a little blue that no one here celebrated Thanksgiving, but they certainly make up for it with Christmas festivities!
Reinhard said it finally felt like Christmas for him when we went to see the Christkind parade in Innsbruck. It’s such a cute event. Reini and I caught a little bit of it when I visited for Christmas in 2013, so I was determined to get a front row view this year! It’s a children’s parade where almost all the marchers are children. The cutest part was when the children were mini shepherds leading around sheep! At the end of the parade was the Christkind who promised the children he’d be back to deliver presents under their trees on December 24.
Christmas Eve was filled with traditions that I remember from 2013, too. Reini and I watched Elf before he went to practice flugelhorn with his dad before their big performance in front of the hotel guests. His dad played the baritone this year, to mix things up. After their performance for the guests, we went over to Reini’s parents’ house next door and had a really nice dinner cooked by Kathrin. We then went to the top floor of the house where Reini’s dad had the Christmas tree all set up with presents underneath. We sang Silent Night and Oh Tannenbaum before we saw what the Christkind left us. I made Reini wait to open Santa’s (my parents’) presents until Christmas morning.
It’s no secret – Tyrolleans love schnapps! Opa Fohringer is known around the area for his schnapps and has passed it down to the other Fohringer men. Reinhard’s dad was burning this year’s bunch and asked Reini to take over for a few hours this afternoon. Earlier in the fall, the Fohringers harvested their apples from a few apple trees on their land. They had been fermenting since in big barrels, waiting for this very special time of year. Opa loves to give his finished schnapps as gifts and offer little glasses at the end of meals because it’s “healthy.”
You might have seen the advertisements for the new Krampus movie. Well, the tradition actually is a very real one in the Alps. Every year the Krampuses come to the villages. I was speaking with some of my classmates before the big show night and they all seemed to have mixed experiences. Most of the girls were very scared of them. The Krampuses behave differently from village to village, but they generally all look very similar. They’re all big, hairy, brown, have really creepy masks and horns. Most wear big bells on their backs. There is usually one with a big basket on his back, used to take the naughty children to hell with it. Santa here doesn’t even bother giving the bad children coal… But some of the village’s Krampuses are actually pretty violent. One of the girls told me that the Krampuses at her village traumatized her horse so badly that now even the sound of the cows walking around with their bells makes it scared. Another classmate said that the Krampuses at her village whip people with their tails. Needless to say, I was scared myself of meeting the Kelchsau Krampuses. It ended up being quite cool. The Kelchsau show started out with mini Krampuses – children dressed up as Krampus and did their little show. They were awesome! Everyone was outside, drinking glühwein, and listening to Christmas music. Then the big Krampus guys came out. They were pretty scary. The Kelchsau firefighters were all there, monitoring the event. There’s lots of fire and the Krampus guys were all wearing really big, fluffy outfits. I think there had been some bad accidents in the past, so all villages have to have firefighters present. These guys were bold though, for sure! One guy was breathing fire, and the others were twirling firecrackers as they shook their butt bells. Thankfully there were gates between the onlookers and the Krampuses because they tried to break free and attack them! They were kind of funny in Kelchsau (a farming village) because they ride tractors!
The next night we went to an even bigger Krampus show in Söll. There were about 10 different Krampus groups from other towns that all convened in Söll to make a huge Krampus night. We only stayed for two of the groups because it was SOO cold – even the glühwein wasn’t enough to warm us! Those guys put on a pretty good show too. In addition to the “regular” Krampus guys, they had Perchten too. A Perchta (singular for ‘Perchten’) looks like of like a big, dry hay bale with a scary face and horns. They play metal drum things and accompany Krampuses on their mission to take the children away. It was a cool (and very cold) night, but fun to witness other culture’s traditions.
The holidays here are just so beautiful! Snow came (and left) and we got to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving. Though far from home, I wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving here at my new home! I invited sister Kathrin and her boyfriend Thomas, cousin Eva, Hannes and Bianca, and chef friend Anja over for the big meal. I had fun cooking all day and made a great, traditional spread. Reini and I hunted down the biggest turkey we could find (just under 9 lbs). I was easily able to find all the other ingredients to make stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and (the star of the show) an apple pie. Our friends brought over some wine and we really enjoyed the evening. I even made them all go around and say one thing they were thankful for. 🙂 I think I’ll be asked to host Thanksgiving again next year!
We had a white Thanksgiving this year. That certainly doesn’t happen in Georgia! When we went back to the village, Reini and I hiked to the top of a nearby mountain (though R would probably call it a hill) and walked through the snowiness. Here’s a little video for you to see!