by Patricia Erickson-Bell, Executive Administrative Assistant
I grew up in Vienna, Austria, and one of my favorite childhood memories is Christmastime with my family. Even though I do not like the cold, gray, and chilly days, I always loved December. My parents would buy us calendars that had 24 numbered windows and each day revealed a Christmas themed picture and a piece of chocolate. My brother and I couldn’t wait for dinner to be over so we could race to the calendar to find that day’s number, see what picture it revealed, and of course, enjoy the chocolate!
On the first Sunday in Advent we would huddle together around the table and light the first of four candles on our Christmas wreath. We would repeat this ceremony with an additional candle on three more Sundays in December; the more candles lit the closer it was to Christmas Eve.
December also meant our house would be filled with the aroma of homemade cookies. My mom would bake for hours and asked us to help, which we loved to do so we could sneak out cookies and chocolate pieces for ourselves.
Finally, after waiting for 24 long agonizing days, it was Christmas Eve! My parents would send us outside to play in the morning. As adults we later learned that my parents used this time to set up the Christmas tree and decorate it. We always wondered why the family room was off limits for the rest of the day. My dad would take us to the movie theater to watch a holiday movie or we would go ice-skating or stroll through one of the many Christkindl markets in Vienna. Back home my mom would prepare dinner and wait for us to return. My brother and I could barely eat, knowing that Christkindl would come soon and hopefully bring a gift or two! And then there it was – the sound of Christmas bells and the noise of something flying away through the window in the family room. By then we knew Christkindl had arrived. Our parents led us to the Christmas tree and we would sing carols, read stories, and open gifts. Later on, our extended family would join us and we all had cookies and would talk until late in the evening. The next day we would all meet again at my grandma’s house and keep celebrating Christmas.
To this day I enjoy our family traditions. We have calendars with chocolate, I bake tons of cookies, and we light candles each Sunday. I have adopted the American tradition and set up our Christmas tree on December 1st for everyone to enjoy it throughout the whole month.
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