December 24th – Weihnachten / Christmas Eve (Part 1)

The adults split up into two groups in the morning. One, led by Anton, took the kids who still believed in the Christkind into Vienna to the zoo, whilst the others helped decorate the tree, covering it with hundreds of twinkling electric lights. Candles were really not an option, because there was just too much risk of burning down Ludwig’s barn with the smallest accident. With the tree completed, they finishing up the cooking and began laying out the food.

The kids at the zoo were beside themselves with joy. The anticipation of the Christkind coming and bringing all the presents, the freshly fallen snow, the animals all made it hard for the adults with them to keep them in check. More than once a kid wandered off and got lost, but eventually they found each one and made their way back to the village for the Christmas celebrations.

When they arrived back at the barn, it was already dark. The huge door opened with a deep groan, revealing nothing as it was pitch black inside. Now it was Ludwig’s turn, he flipped the switch and all the lights went on in the barn. The tree was sparkling and hundreds of lights were wrapped around the wooden beams of the barn, making it look magical. The pastor rang a big cowbell to indicate that the Christkind had visited and left presents for everyone. Suddenly, the room was full of oohs and aahs, wide-eyed children and delighted adults. Anton, who hadn’t seen the barn lit up before, gasped and his eyes widened as much as any of the children’s, though his twinkled along with the tree, as they were full of tears.

Everyone sat down at the long tables in the barn for Christmas dinner. The mayor’s sister-in-law had never had such a tasty Christmas dinner before. The rest of the village, too, enjoyed themselves and the food. There was fondue and carp, roast goose, baked apples, mulled wine, teas, and piles upon piles of Christmas cookies of almost every variety. The mood was cheerful and everyone laughed and had fun.

After dinner, it was time to sing. Even with the choir leader lying down, the choir sang the Christmas carols beautifully, and the rest of the village joined in. Lyric sheets were handed out, just in case, and the barn filled with music. Big and small, young and old, human and goat stood around the Christmas tree and sang at the top of their voices.

(to be continued…)

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