Last year we began with Secret Santa. Instead of everyone getting something for everyone, everyone gets something for SOMEONE on behalf of everyone.
As the children were growing up, even for birthdays, as the finance minister, I set the limit, ten euros per gift. We really could not afford more. With five kids and a husband and then there was the food to prepare, every feast already came to over a hundred Euros. Where do you get that kind of extra money on a tight budget?
So I thought I was fairly clever, pretty proud of myself as we learned to treat each other. We were so excited about our little gifts, every Christmas, six presents to give, six presents to get, lots of wrapping paper, lots of fun and games.
I don’t even remember when I started doing turkeys. I carried on the tradition of my mother of fish and potato salad on Christmas Eve. My British sister-in-law used to invite us over for turkey on Christmas Day, back in Australia, so I thought that was a good idea too.
At first when the kids were small we used to go to Waldviertel, to Josef’s sister. The tradition there is a milk soup for lunch with Oma (God bless her soul). Then there was fish after the rosary in the chapel.
Since my boys started spending every Christmas Day in the Hofburg it got to be a ritual for me to prepare the turkey while they went to town.
The first couple of years it was fun to go to Waldviertel. We even spent the night. A white Christmas was almost guaranteed. As our family grew, and the children’s affection for milk soup declined, I discovered the joy of starting our very own Christmas traditions.
So I can’t even tell you how long we’ve been doing this, but anyhow, last year we started with Secret Santa. So tonight we had a discussion. We used to decorate the tree on the twenty-fourth of December. That is, Josef decorated the tree with the boys while I made the fish and potato salad.
Then everyone would put their gifts under the tree, starting with the youngest. Then we would eat the fish and potato salad. Then we would sing some Christmas carols. Next we would all unwrap our gifts. The kids would play, there would be paper all over the floor, lots of noise and laughter and fun and games. One year the kids bought us a big screen television. Then we used it to watch a crackling fireplace throughout the evening as we continued our fun and games and singing.
Now since we live in Vienna and all the children have their own place, last year I asked Josef to get the tree earlier. A change of tradition. Then Timi suggested Secret Santa. Another change. Tonight we discussed what we’ll do next year. It will be Secret Santa again. We are all so grateful for the time we can share together. I am so grateful to hear my own children tell me that they are not interested in the consumerism and materialism. Then they tell me they can buy the expensive things they want themselves and I can just burst with pride.
Yes, I must have done something right. Tonight I read the Gift of the Magi.
Yes we love Christmas. It is our time to come together, to appreciate what we have, who we are and so much more.
Just want to share my joy and conviction. It doesn’t matter how much you spend. It doesn’t matter how much you get. It’s the coming together and caring for each other that counts.
We played a game together afterwards. We had half the trifle. I usually make trifle for Christmas. Then we have the rest on Christmas Day. Josef baked cookies and they loved them too.
It’s late tonight, despite the early start this afternoon. I’ll be up in the morning to prepare the turkey. The kids will be back in the afternoon after the Hofburg. If you go to listen to the Vienna Choir Boys sing Silent Night in the Imperial Palace on Christmas Day, my boys aren’t singing, they’re just the ushers and assistants now. This is a job reserved for former Vienna Choir Boys.
Merry Christmas to you all.