I love Vienna at Christmas time. I find that I am able to capture, here, pieces of the holidays that I’d been looking for but couldn’t always find at home. I feel like the focus here is on family, on enjoyment and celebration, with frenetic shopping and consumerism replaced by evenings at the Christmas markets with family or friends.
If I paint an idealized picture, it only reflects how grateful I feel to Vienna. My time here has reminded me what I want from the holidays and shown me what is possible.
We spent a magical evening yesterday at, of all places, the Rathaus Christmas market here in Vienna. The Rathaus market can be a bit touristy and gaudy, and in previous years, has not been one of my favorites. I was won over last night, by taking the kids and seeing it through their eyes.
The trees are all lit up. Not just a little, but with enthusiasm. 10 or so massive trees in the park around the Rathaus are decked out impressively, each in a different theme: hearts, snowmen, teddy bears, stars …. It transforms the park into a wonderland, a larger-than-life fantasy world where 60 three-foot-tall tall teddy bears camp in a tree together. Then there were pony rides with little fingers snuggled into fuzzy coats and a train ride that wove between the decorated trees. Then we had to try the carousel and Santa’s sleigh, all beneath the festive trees and the impressive yet warm facade of the Rathaus itself. The boys were so excited to be entrusted to deliver their tickets for the rides themselves, and I was immensely proud to hear their pleases and thank yous.
With the weather below freezing, we were nearly finished by that point, except for a stop at the market for each of us to choose a special treat. Dan and I had the best hot chocolate in Vienna, while Benjamin insisted on a langos and Liam chose a bag of fruit gummies, which he happily gobbled down right in front of the market stall (to the amusement of the proprietor and several other customers).
We hurried home to get out of the cold, but it was a magical night. Ponies, trains, trees full of light and all of us, together. I hope it was a night that they’ll remember. I hope they, too, can hold on to these beautiful moments of Christmas in Vienna.