Less Pepper Spray, More Punsch?

I read this over coffee this morning, from my CNN headlines. Quote: “While no deaths were reported in this year’s shopping, authorities said they handled fights, shootings and other incidents through the morning.”

Well, that’s good. At least no one died. I mean jeez, a few fights and shootings, that’s just to be expected. All part of the Christmas spirit.

Later, we bundled up and headed out to do some Christmas shopping in the Vienna Advent markets. What a contrast.

I pretty much hate shopping malls even on a good day. And I can’t remember the last time I went shopping on Black Friday. I am a big fan of online shopping, thrift shopping, craft fair shopping—pretty much anything to stay out of the malls, especially in the few weeks before Christmas. So, I was already biased in favor of “small” shopping experiences before moving to Vienna.

I do realize not everyone in the States loses their minds at Christmas time. My own family has always been pretty low-key about Christmas, with useful, handmade, or thrifted gifts being completely acceptable. I suspect we are part of a quiet majority—or at least a significant minority.

Still, I think it’s hard to disagree with the point that if there’s one thing European countries do better than we do, hands-down, no contest, it is Christmas shopping. It’s actually fun here.

For one thing, even in the retail stores, it looks like most people are actually shopping for gifts, not amazing deals for themselves. There are sales and bargains, but none of this 5 AM “doorbuster” stuff. And you see people carrying two or three bags, not dozens. Traffic is not a huge issue, because you can take public transportation just about anywhere you want to go.

Most people look like they are having a good time, not stressed out and cranky. There are hardly any screaming kids around, either, because it’s much less chaotic and no one is attempting to do an all-day shopping marathon with their toddlers in tow. (Who are these crazy people, anyway?)

It’s cold, but people here know how to dress for it (I’m learning). No seems to be in a hurry. The basic plan: wander around the market, admire the crafts and merchandise, and pick up a couple of gifts, stopping every now and then for a snack, preferably accompanied by a beer or some Christmas punsch: basically hot wine mulled with spices.

There are all kinds of punsch, including a non-alcoholic version for kids. I don’t know about the kinderpunsch, but the adult version has a definite mellowing effect. It’s hard to get too worked up about anything after a mug of that and a belly full of sausages and pretzels. Joy to the world, y’all, and a nice nap on the sofa in the afternoon 🙂

The markets are groups of "huttes" scattered throughout the city.
The markets are groups of “huttes” scattered throughout the city.
Beeswax candles, soaps, honey, and other local bee products are found in every market.
Beeswax candles, soaps, honey, and other local bee products are found in every market.
Traditional decorated cookies, pomanders, fruit jams and syrups, etc. Smells great!
Traditional decorated cookies, pomanders, fruit jams and syrups, etc. Smells great!
There are regular retail ornaments mixed with beautiful handmade ones which are not cheap!
There are regular retail ornaments mixed with beautiful handmade ones which are not cheap!
More glass ornaments (we have a cat, so we'll pass, thanks.)
More glass ornaments (we have a cat, so we’ll pass, thanks.)
Decorated cinnamon bundles for baking or mulling wine.
Decorated cinnamon bundles for baking or mulling wine.
Typical snack hut.
Typical snack hut.
You can't go the market without stopping at one of these stands.
You can’t go the market without stopping at one of these stands.
Not too sure about the chicken fingers....
Not too sure about the chicken fingers….
The "turbopunsch" is probably spiked with rum or schnapps.  I'm not trying it!
The “turbopunsch” is probably spiked with rum or schnapps. I’m not trying it!
Every kind of pretzel, including "krapfen" which is cinnamon sugar and not nasty at all.
Every kind of pretzel, including “krapfen” which is cinnamon sugar and not nasty at all.
Very Austrian Santa made of felted wool.  Complete with a lucky mushroom.
Very Austrian Santa made of felted wool. Complete with a lucky mushroom.
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2 comments

  1. I love the Christmas markets – Austria’s look to be awesome! Thanks for sharing the pics and a bit of the holiday mood. We are about to put the tree up but with the heat and humidity outside, it just doesn’t quite feel like the season yet.

    Like

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