Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Einen guten Rutsch ins 2015

2014 has been quite the year. On my end, I have graduated, completed my swimming career, traveled to Aruba, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Europe, among other memorable milestones. Several chapters have concluded, while others have opened and are starting to get exciting. Along with the good comes some bad such as death, growing pains, and difficult people. The French say "C'est la vie," meaning, "that's life."Austria and 2014 in general have shown me to move forward but also to stay in the moment. Diane Nyad said in an interview that we are only guaranteed to have the present moment. I have to agree with her. 

I will be welcoming the New Year in Krefeld. In 2015, I hope to express more gratitude for my many blessings. Life is not always easy, especially when rather far from home, but optimism and a thirst for knowledge keep it interesting. 

In German, people wish you a "good slip" into the New Year, or einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr. So I wish you a guten Rustch as well. May it be blissfully metaphorical as opposed to literal. Welcome 2015 like the present moment that we all have.

Camel's Hump State Park, Vermont (July 2014)


All the best for the New Year,
Matt

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Frohe Weihnachten 2014!

Winter has arrived. The nights have been crisp and long. That means for many in the northern hemisphere that the holidays are amongst us. On my end, it has been an exhiliarating holiday season in Austria. Lots has happened since my last post (which I’ll do my best to report on in 2015), but this post is to wish all my friends and family a very Merry Christmas and/or a happy holiday season.

Austria has some special traditions that you won’t find in the USA. The first that many admire from the Germanic-speaking world is the Christkindlmärkte, or Christmas Markets. These markets offer warm treats and beverages (i.e. mulled wine and cider) as well as an abundance of handmade trinkets and crafts. In Austria, they are the first sign of Christmas cheer when towns and communities start to build the markets at the end of October. That may seem unthinkable in the USA, but remember that Austrians don’t have Thanksgiving. (And yes, I did manage to celebrate Thanksgiving twice in Austria…with Austrians and Americans.)
Linzer Christmas Market at Hauptplatz
 

The second Austrian tradition that intrigues me are the Krampus and Perchten. In Austria, the Christmas Man is called St. Niklas (Saint Nicolas) and delivers presents into children's shoes on December 6th. The day before that there is the Krampuslauf (or Krampus Run) in virtually every town center. The Krampus is a rather horrific figure that may seem more suitable for Halloween. His job is to accompany St. Niklas as he delivers presents to the good boys and girls. The bad boys and girls receive a visit from the Krampus instead of St. Niklas. Perchten play a similar role of keeping naughty children in line, but they do not accompany St. Niklas. Krampus usually have 2 horns (on their hand-carved masks) whereas Perchten can have any desired amount of horns. With the bells and whips on theses furry costumes, they create an overwhelmingly loud presence that you always hear coming.

Perchtenlauf at PlusCity Mall

Landstrasse in full-on Christmas Spirit


The past week has been exciting leading up to Christmas because I’ve had the chance to talk with my classes about how my family celebrates the holiday in New Jersey/Delaware: with around 70 people, good food, egg nog, and Christmas carols. The laughter and shock on everyone’s faces only confirmed how awesomely we celebrate December 25th. Although after singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” a dozen times (check it: that’s 144 days of Christmas), I have had my fair share of Christmas carols. My teachers in Linz even spoiled me with Christmas goodies before I flew from Vienna to Düsseldorf.

I do wish that I could be there to enjoy this special time with my friends and family at home, but I think I’m blessed with an alternative option. For Christmas, I have returned to host family in Germany. It feels great to be back in my home away from home. It has been a whirlwird of reunions and culture shock with having to readjust to the standard German spoken by my host family. I didn’t realize that I’ve adjusted so much to the Austrian dialect spoken in Linz. From Krefeld to Saarland, I feel lucky and fortunate to still celebrate Christmas with loved ones. Cheers to old and new traditions!

As Christmas begins, I’d like to wish you all Frohe Weihnachten!, ¡Feliz Navidad!, and a Merry Christmas! May you all feel blessed and loved during this wonderful time of the year. Happy Holidays!

Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland
Matt

P.S. In case you were wondering, Christmas presents are also delivered and opened on Christmas Eve in Austria and Germany by the “Christkind,” or Christmas angel. That seems quite contrary to the old, fat, and jolly man who delivers our presents in the USA, eh?