Life in Austria, Reflections
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Pre-Holidays, Inspiration Trumps Isolation

It’s happening. Fall-themed merchandise is now on clearance, making plenty of room on the shelves for Christmas stuff. Some things aren’t so different from America after all.

I’m definitely somber about the absence of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Ever since college, the anticipation for Thanksgiving has always paired naturally with the nip in the air, ochre and auburn tones, hearty stews, and a longing for family. But the gaping hole in November on the Austrian calendar is sending me in a tailspin. Without the lockstep cadence of Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas, I’m feeling disoriented.

Dear Christmas, hold your horses. Especially because I won’t be with my family in America on Thanksgiving. I know you’re waiting in the wings for your faaaaabulous entrance, and you’ll get it, I promise. I’m just asking for some time to defend myself against an inevitable bout of homesickness. Thanks.

If you’ve ever been away from your loved ones during the holidays, you know how much the distance strengthens your love and connection to them, and how acutely it intensifies the loneliness and the guilt. For our inaugural holiday season as a married couple, Juergen and I have decided to stay in Austria with his family. It’s his first chance to share with me the holiday traditions of his youth. That alone is incredibly special, leaving no place for me to be selfishly depressed about my situation. I’m very grateful that my family and friends understand this, and I promise them a raucous reunion in 2015.

Starting with Thanksgiving, I’m pledging the following as a way to truly enjoy the holidays (emphasis on joy) and not simply “get through them”:

  1. Reach out to friends and family in the States– yes, I’m coming out of hiding, starting with this blog. You can also expect Skype calls, mails, and messages full of Austrian cheer.
  2. Strengthen my budding relationships–  a great many people have opened their arms to me in my first year here. They are fully deserving of my gratitude, and I intend on celebrating in the moment with them.
  3. Take on new traditions– this refers to (a) local Austrian and Styrian customs, my favorites being jungwein, glühwein, all kinds of sweets, and visiting the festive displays around town; and (b) establishing new traditions of our own. Instead of getting caught up in what I’m missing, Juergen and I are building and blending traditions that one day, God willing, our children can grow up with.
  4. Share my traditions– even if it means roast chicken instead of turkey. Our ye old family recipes from New Jersey, in their crumpled and splattered state, have been scanned, printed, and ready for their debut in my kitchen. Movie night and board games will also be duly enforced.
  5. Give back– not limited to the holiday season, but it’s a reminder to actively seek out organizations to whom I could extend my time and service. And a great way to connect with my community.

So, the bright side is indeed very bright. Without Thanksgiving in the air, an early entry into Christmas means I could relish the spirit of the season with less stress than in the past. No evidence of Black Friday here, thank goodness. I’ll have time for cutesy crafts, personalized cards, lots of baking—assuming I can defeat the demon procrastinator that followed me overseas. Schau ma mal.

To get inspired, I visited a holiday craft market at the firehouse in the next town over. It was small, a dozen or so tables, which made it all the more charming. No crowds, no hassle. It was nice to walk around slowly, purposefully admiring the handiwork and smiling at the artisans-slash-neighbors. I would’ve engaged them in further conversation, but after failing to produce the German words for “crochet” and “beading,” I resorted to a mere smile and nod. I walked out with my very first tree decoration and a children’s Christmas book for myself, all for 3 euros.

Yes, holiday inspiration is everywhere, and I’m embracing it. It’s beautiful and genuine. I’m counting the days until the Christmas Markts open up in Graz (10 days!).

Stay tuned for updates and photos!

"Grandma's needlework" Check out the golden walnuts in the background, too.

“Grandma’s needlework.” Check out the golden walnuts in the background, too.

This used children's book "Christmas Mail for Jacob" was calling out to me

This used children’s book “Christmas Mail for Jacob” was calling out to me

Double motivation: a holiday inspired German workout for the brain and soul

Double motivation: a holiday inspired German workout for the brain and soul

Mia’s German in Progress

Schau ma mal = “we’ll see” (I just love the laissez faire-ness of this phrase. I’m not surprised at how easily I grabbed on to it)

jungwein = young or early wine, seasonal in November

glühwein = spiced red wine, a.k.a. winter fun in a mug




  1. I’ll be thanksgiving-ing in Mexico, thinking of you, jealous of your impending gluhwein. I love that stuff!! Keep writing!! xo

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