It is late November and already I have had enough of Christmas. I used to dread the mention of getting the decorations out to adorn the artificial tree further in advance that was suitably acceptable. My recent trip to Lincolnshire
and with window displays of grinning Santas and snowmen in the pound stores (the English equivalent of the 1 Euro Store, or in the dark days pre-common currency those “10 Schilling Laden”) did little to lift my unseasonal feeling of curmudgeonly avarice.
Austrian employees paid out 14 salaries (I used to remark to others that all that really matters is not the frequency of salary payments but the amount that goes into your account at the end of the month) are gleefully rubbing their hands as their 14th salary “Weihnachtsgeld” lands in their account, and balances spike momentarily to a heady level, otherwise barely observed in the paycheque-to-paycheque culture. I naturally miss this event now that I no longer enjoy it, although the prospect of a maturing building and savings scheme account could simulate this effect nicely were I not just considering putting it back in for another six years after skimming off the interest to buy a new winter jacket.
My wife has told me that my current overcoat that has done loyal service since around the turn of the millennium is now definitely not even fit for the Caritas bin on the street corner. Of course, I will pointblank refuse to part with my money for a new one, particularly not at a Black Friday sale, in the vain hope that a post Christmas shopping trip might cover that purpose. With ever more thinning hair, the necessity to wear a hat in winter is increasingly apparent. However, I am struggling to find a suitable one locally, although a trip down the S45 might find a potential alternative. Hopefully once kitted out in my new garments, I will no longer resemble a decrepit spy as I glide through the morning pea soup fog aboard an old style tram.
Nowadays Christmas seems to find itself jostling for position surrounded by Halloween and barely a day goes by without something in the media that “Today is … day”. To cite just a few recent examples: the second Friday in November is Apfeltag here in Austria. I managed to forego celebrating being an international man on “International Men’s Day” earlier in the week. I also forgot to empty the various loose change receptacles (bar the envelope with Austrian Schilling) and march off to the bank to deposit them in honour of Sparefroh and Weltspartag.
I dare not check the calendar of Saint’s Days that are so prevalent. I confess blissful non-awareness of my Namenstag, although how in nearly a quarter century I have managed to avoid gaining this piece of valuable knowledge also eludes me. Halloween feels like it is a month-long festival – or the supermarkets try to make it seem so. Our fellows across the pond in America and Canada are geared up for Thanksgiving, the Canadians celebrating earlier, and then the gratuitous retail orgy of “Black Friday” descends upon us, with talks of flash sales, great savings and a way of getting people to prepone their Christmas shopping. And usually there will be a tale of a stampede at a faceless mall in the Midwest as locals make the most of a two-for-one on firearms, with the POTUS offering the ever grating “thoughts and prayers” via Twitter.
My sister-in-law informed me that next week is their Christmas party – in late November – as everyone is too busy in December. She has drawn a colleague in “Engelbengel” (that is the Austrian equivalent of the equally loathsome Secret Santa) for whom she has no idea what to buy for a tenner, and asked me for suggestions. She claims to barely know him, let alone his tastes. I suggested an inoffensive Moleskine notebook, which is also eminently regiftable (is that even a word?), or some bespoke condiments (the latter suggestion was greeted with a sigh!).) ll
Meanwhile my social calendar seems to be a slew of invitations to Advent Markets to drink chemical Punsch at hiked up prices, and to lament the escalating Häferleinsatz and cheap mugs. In the clickbait world, the eschewing of these drinking vessels is surely fit for an “article” on 15 signs you have lived in Vienna for “too long” along with the hackneyed “Zweite Kassa, bitte!” and knowing to never wittingly visit the Adventmarkt at Rathausplatz, save for buying knock-off cologne for a spiteful Secret Santa, to then be regifted into the New Year’s Eve “Ramschtombola”. It is still too early to wish everyone a “Merry Sodding Christmas!”
In dragging myself into the 21st Century, I will however be tweeting from my new twitter account @cottage4tel
– expect occasional tweets bemoaning the descent into retail purgatory at your peril.