Although part of me really regrets not making plans to go home for the holidays (which I said I was definitely going to do last year, and then didn’t, again), it’s sometimes good to stay home, relax, and enjoy each other’s company for a few quiet days. It’s even better to get to do that in a beautiful foreign city that truly embraces the holiday spirit. We just spent a wonderful time — almost 2 weeks — with Dan off of work and B off of school, just enjoying having some time off in Vienna. We didn’t “do” a whole lot of anything. We didn’t travel anywhere, make a last-minute dash to any of the Christmas markets, or check anything major off of our to-do list. But we had a pretty magical holiday, and I didn’t blog for (almost) the entire time. It was like a real vacation, just without suitcases.
We started our holiday celebration off by singing Austrian Christmas carols in our building’s chapel, by candlelight, in German, with a few dozen of our neighbors. (Yep, our building has an ornate and gorgeous chapel on the 2nd floor. And we tried to sight-read music to songs we don’t know in a language we don’t speak in the near-dark while wrestling kids and holding candles. It was fun. Really!) It was festive and peaceful and lighthearted and it gave us a nice sense of community connection that we don’t always have here. We followed that up with a failed attempt to see some more of Vienna’s beautiful Christmas lights — who knew they turn some of them off at 9:00? (Certainly not me, given that we arrived at the street in question at about 8:57, just in time to ascertain that yes, in fact, there ARE lights, they just weren’t illuminated any longer.) And although we failed that night in our quest to see the lights, we succeeded in getting snowed on a little, which definitely contributed to the holiday spirit.
The next night, I surprised the family by taking us all on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Vienna, past several of the big landmarks and amongst the festivity of the last weekend before Christmas. Although that’s certainly not something we do every day, we started our ride just at the end of our street, so it was a bit like getting a ride around our neighborhood, and it was Jo’s first time to see the city this way. We all enjoyed it, and just as we were all starting to get cold, we were finished, and we warmed up with some hot chocolate and cookies.
Then, it was nearly Christmas, and we were busy finishing up the ornaments on the tree, baking and decorating cookies and hanging stockings by the terrace with care. And then we had a great Christmas Day. We took in the magic and wonder of the boys finding gifts left by Santa under the tree, we played and shared and read and rested and enjoyed some wonderful food. We Skyped with the grandparents, aunts and uncles at home, and enjoyed their company so much, even from a distance (and even while we despised the time difference that made our days overlap so little).
But Christmas wasn’t the end of our vacation, it was just the beginning! We rested on St. Stephen’s Day, and then spent the next few days visiting dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, resting some more, playing video games, wishing the animals at the zoo a happy new year and then wandering amongst the enthusiastically festive crowds gathered to welcome 2013 to downtown Vienna. We didn’t manage to stay out until midnight, but we all stayed up to watch the fireworks from our kitchen window.
And then, Dan went back to work today. B doesn’t go back to school until Monday, but he woke up this morning with a fever, and, just like that, we were back to reality. I love my day-to-day reality (most of the time) but I miss the wonderful spell we had woven over the past few weeks. It was time well and pleasantly spent, enjoying each other and celebrating together. We had a great holiday at home.