Originally I wanted to post a Christmas story on December 24. I also intended to name the post differently – “My first Canadian Christmas”. But last Thursday I met a woman and was so touched by what she said, that I changed my mind. I felt like I had to talk about Christmas now and not in a week.
I wanted to get Christmas cards for our family and friends, and went to the Eaton Centre last Thursday, one of Toronto’s iconic malls. I was Immediately overwhelmed by the sparkly Christmas decorations, the giant sale signs in every store and the enormous amount of people running around equipped with three, four, sometimes even seven shopping bags. My plan was to escape this situation as soon as possible, so I walked into the first store that looked like it would carry a variety of cards I could choose from.
The store was well stocked and after ten minutes I had what I wanted. I went to the checkout and handed the cashier the Christmas cards. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” she said with a very sad voice. I knew right away that she didn’t mean it. I said that it was probably tough to work in a store like this two weeks before Christmas. She nodded and started to scan the items I wanted to purchase. “I like your scarf,” she said while I was trying to find my wallet. When I told her that I had bought it in Austria, she asked, “Are you Austrian?” “Yes, I am from Vienna,” I answered. All of a sudden her eyes lit up and she said, “You guys over there really know what Christmas is about. It’s not like this.” She was pointing at the people running up and down the mall. “Compared to here it is a little less busy in Austria around this time of the year. Especially Christmas Eve is very calm ,” I said. Since she seemed interested, I told her a little bit more about Christmas in Austria, and on my way out I said, “ I hope you will have a nice Christmas.” She smiled and replied, “You have just made it a nice one.”
Last year was the first time I spent Christmas in Canada and the first time my husband and I had to combine two traditions. Austrians celebrate Christmas on December 24 in the evening, they decorate the Christmas tree (always a real tree, often with real candles) that same day, and the gifts are brought by the Christkind (Christ child). Canadians celebrate Christmas on December 25, they decorate the Christmas tree (often an artificial tree, never with real candles) days or weeks before Christmas, and the gifts are brought by Santa Claus.
Guess what we did? We celebrated Christmas twice. On Christmas Eve we celebrated the Austrian way including the “Bescherung”, which is German for “handing out of presents” – as far as I know, there is no English word for that. The next morning we went to my husband’s parents and celebrated the Canadian way. It was the first time I had a Christmas stocking – I was very excited about that.
This year we will celebrate Christmas with my parents in Vienna. We will bring a little bit of Canadian tradition with us, but I can’t tell you what it is, because my family is usually reading my blog posts, and I want it to be a surprise for them.
Whichever way I spend Christmas, and this brings me back to the beginning of my story, I always make sure I don’t forget what it is about. I do like getting Christmas presents for my family and friends. But I like it because I enjoy seeing people’s faces when they open their gifts.
I hope the woman I met in the store will have a joyful Christmas. After all, it should also be the most wonderful time of the year for her.