Alpine Christmas - Part 1 and 2

The Christ Kind Mart

For Christmas and the festive season let me share,

With dwellers of this world and all who care

To learn about the country of my birth;

Its customs of sobriety or mirth.

I thus begin: - It is a wintry land;

That threatening avalanches must withstand,

But its traditions are full worth to tell

They are so multi-hued and do compel

Astonished tourists take in with delight

The practices most strange or quaintly rite;

Artists find plenty of food for inspiration,

Children and adults watch with fascination

Events unfolding, - Poets burnt-out and adrift

Get suddenly an unexpected lift.

December first opens the Christ Kind Mart;

And traders bring wares to town by buggy and cart;

Where merchants beckon with friendly greetings and calls

Inviting the shoppers to come to their open-air-stalls.

For sale, all know, - the traditional Christ Kind Mart

Offers practical things and items of art;

Cribs and hand-carved figures are sold (free of tax)

Infant Christs and ornament candles in wax;

Golden straw stars, fastened with ribbons or twill,

Woven by hand in exquisite patterns with skill;

Jaunty felt hats, adorned with pheasant feather,

Special tools for work in wood and leather;

Educational books, but also plenty of toys,

Pageantry masks, and the coveted beards of chamois.

Kitchen contrivances and utility gear

Pitchers and steins to hold strong nut-brown beer

Ceramic platters, plates and broad-handled mugs;

And for New Year’s eve,- extravagant egg nogg jugs,

Christmas food stuffs, either fresh or canned

Are offered with “Russen” (a herring) most in demand;

Creches with well-carved Holy Family,

And natives attending to the Nativity;

Wood- or gleaming ceramic angels hover

In worship around the grotto’s star-lit cover.

Peasants with sheep and goats and waddling geese,-

Three holy kings and shepherds on their knees.

All fitted out in the local traditional attire-

Attract the native and the tourist buyer;

Garlands of wood shaving dancing and swinging sprightly,

Willow-twig door bells, woven dense and tightly,

To decorate hallways, porches, dens and scores

Of homestead alcove niches, yards and doors.

Trade is brisk, and with magic filled is the air-

In the town, its alleys, streets and the market square.

Forests from nearby furnish fir and pine;

Wreaths for Advent and mistletoe garlands twine.

Items of fauna and timberland roll on the ground

While cheery carols from bells and chimes resound

Christmas in the Austrian Alps

Part 2

Feast of St. Nicolas,

St. Nicolas Eve

On December the 5th, with excitement at its peak,

St. Nicolas of Myra, the bishop, called Saint Nick

Goes around with his ugly peer this special night

To visit good children that don't brawl and fight

Do not confuse Saint Nicolas with Santa Claus,

The kind bishop of Myra had no bulbeous nose.

Attired in the traditional fancy array

They roam the streets or a snowy alpine way,

The illustrous bishop - and his unholy peer,

The cleft-footed Krampus, with tail, who inspires great fear;

This Evil One has a switch and rattles a chain,

And when all is quiet they peek through a window pane.

The panes are veiled, but pious parents are certain

A saint can pass through window panes and curtain;

These two pace the streets, going from house to house;

St. Nick brings goodies, the “Krampus” deals quick blows,

Believers know this full well, whether rich or poor

And expect any time three taps on the front room door.

St. Nick asks the parents: ”Have the children been good?

Or did they have a brawl at school and booed

Mrs. Fingerle, or thumbed yet again their nose

At Freddy and Fanny, and put a frog in the sauce?'

At this the Krampus brandishes switch and stick,

But is stopped in his track by merciful Saint Nick.

The children stammer and stutter confessing their sins:

“Matthew pilfered my cookies and jelly beans;

And Charlie bit into Gretchen’s cruller and apple;

And pulled - o dear! -on her beautiful tress in the chapel

From a pew behind he sneaked up and pulled on her tress

While Father Klunkelschupfer said solemn mass.!”

And Hans, who had picked with Franz and John a fight

Must two times as penance the “Our Father” recite.

Now the Krampus ducks and squeals and wails like a pig,

But is exorcised on the spot by glorious St. Nick,

Who entreats the children forthwith to take great care,

And for the Christ Kind’s coming to prepare.

The Saint, - for kissing - now offers his bishop’s ring,

Then opens the sack, chock-full of many a good thing;

He blesses the children and fastens his miter more tight-

To soon disappear in the dusky wintry night.

O loitering heedless Tourist, pray take care!

Show respect and reverence when you meet this pair.

In a busy street, or lonely snow- covered path;

Do not stir up the springs of Krampus’ wrath! -

Both walk long distances through snow and sleet,

And on their mission often get wet feet,-

The citizens, who hold them very dear,

Thrill, when at dusk the two at last appear.

O Tourist!-, rouse your heart, have faith,- believe!

When you meet this prodigious pair on Saint Nicolas’ Eve.

© Elizabeth Dandy

St. Nicolas - Bishop of Myra

Popularized as St. Nick.

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Ruth Lovejoy's picture

Hi well DSL is finally on thank god after near a month of hassel plus losing dial tone on my phone over the past weekend everything went up today tues 12/6. This is an amazing piece you have here and the pics awesome!