Where Did the Magic Go?

Columns | Vienna Review | December 2010 / January 2011

Having grown up in an Austrian family where traditions are cherished, it is the magical playing out of the ritual of Christmas that still makes up my fondest childhood memories.

Every year on Dec. 23, my younger brother and I would go to my grandparents’ house – so that  the Christkind (we do not, I emphasize, we do NOT believe in the Weihnachtsmann here in Austria) could decorate the Christmas tree that my uncle had chopped down in the forest of his farm in the weeks of Advent.

In excited anticipation of Christmas, we would spend the evening cuddled up in front of the fireplace, sipping hot cocoa and munching on my grandmother’s delicious Christmas cookies.

On the 24th, we would meet our parents at the church for the children’s Christmas Mass in the late afternoon (of course the Christkind needed enough time to bring our presents, but then again we weren’t prepared to wait too long for the feast). After mass, my parents and grandparents strolled home. My brother and I ran.

We couldn’t wait to get into our dress up clothes (meticulously chosen the day before) in which we would then, our tiny ears eagerly pressed against the door of the living room, wait for the bright chiming of the Christmas bell – rung by the Christkind after lighting the candles and the Christmas tree.

The whole evening was a miracle. And what I treasure the most was the feeling of pure, carefree anticipation I had had as a child.

This year, for the first time, I ask myself: Where did this magic go? How I wish I could go back to my  10-year-old me – just for Christmas.

Hannah Stadlober

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    the vienna review December 2010 / January 2011