Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving all our own

Thanksgiving quickly approached and I found myself baking 9 apple pies and giving various lessons on Thanksgiving itself. With the 5th class (aka high school Freshmen) we traveled back in time to the first Thanksgiving. Two reporters asked both the Wampanaog and the Pilgrims questions and a few visitors from the present explained to the original feasters how Americans today celebrate.
With some of the older classes we analyzed the idea of Un-Thanksgiving, which takes place each year on Alcatraz Island off of the coast of California and is held by Native Americans, as well as Thanksgiving Mourning, which takes place on Plymouth Rock each year. Both are two alternative forms to the typical Thanksgiving.And, of course, there was also much discussion of Black Friday. The Austrian students were amazed...why would such a shopping day exist? Why would they not limit the amount of people in the store at a time? Why not just assign people time slots to shop in the store? Their conclusion: Americans are crazy!

With the very young students, to which I acted as a special guest for this one time appearance, we practiced the old stand-by of "I am thankful for..." and learned about the basic traditions and food Americans enjoy for Thanksgiving.

In slightly scary news, on my home from class at the University, I had a bit of a run-in. I was at the cross walk near Suedpark (so almost home) on the bike and a man in black on his bike started talking me about how it was better to ride a bike than drive a car. I made a non-committal noise and when the light turned green I let him get far ahead of me. Next thing I knew, he was ramming a kid (who was also on his bike) head on. He repeated to ram and corner the kid, yelling at the top of his lungs. I rode by and he turned his attention to me. The kid yelled at me to ride faster and I saw him take off on his bike out of the corner of my eye. The man then proceeded to follow me, yelling in German--oooh noch eins! Du! Du denkst du kannst das. Ich bin viel schneller---ooohhh. (Oh, another one! You! You think you can do that! I'm much faster!) He guided his bike into the street, so I thought, hey, maybe he's crossing to go to the other side. Wrong! He picks up speed, keeping pace with me, cuts his bike over and slams me into the fence with his bike. He falls on top of me, then gets back on his bike and takes off across the street on his bike--yelling Du! Du bist der Naechste! (You! You are the next one!) at the shadows as he rode away. I waited a while until he was gone an then limped the rest of the way home with the slightly battered, but still functioning, bicycle. I couldn't walk properly the rest of the week, but I healed quickly.

Before I knew it, Friday rolled around, the night before our Thanksgiving.
It started with school, followed by a massive cleaning, and then a trip to the Nutcracker. Jade and Matt came in from Spittal, while Catherine and Chris came in from Wolfsberg. After a bit of running around, trying to get everyone to our house, we power-walked to Christine's picked her up and hustled over to Lora's for dinner. Losing track of time, we barely made it on time for the performance, and we quickly filled in our row as the lights dimmed. The ballet began traditionally enough, but quickly decayed into a "modern version," by which I mean, for example, the sugar plum fair was wheeled in on a cart of alcohol in her underwear and she danced with a drunken, staggering step. Overall, the performance was still well done, most of the costumes were gorgeous, and the basic plot-line was there. It was just a tad more modern than I was expecting.

Afterwards, we stopped to patronize the gluehwein stalls, before heading back to the house. There, I prepared the filling for my Turkey and made the stuffing. We were all up until 2am laughing and chatting.

By 6am, Riannon and I were up, preparing the birds. She was responsible for one and I the other. We cut through the plastic sealing the meat and removed the small bows Merkur grocery store had placed on top, complete with little stickers reading "Happy Thanksgiving," and began rinsing out the cavities. There was a slight moment of panic when it appeared that some of the guts had not been removed...but a bit of wiggling and they pulled free. They had already been removed, just placed back inside.

At 7am, after being dressed, buttered, herbed, oiled, Turkey one and two were sitting side-by-side roasting the oven.

Riannon returned to bed and I attempted to turn on my computer, but continuously had difficulties. Giving up, I returned to sleep for a bit before springing awake to check on the oven.

Then came the great flood of 10:02am. We found our oven swimming in juices. Quickly, we removed as much juice as we could from the pan, cleaned the oven, and returned the two turkeys.

You can see, in the end, they turned out well...

Soon, people were arriving left and right, while other dishes were still being finished...

jade and I making veggie casserole

The kitchen table was covered in food, ranging from Riannon's stuffed mushroom's to Emil's Jambalaya and biscuits or Chris' hashbrown casserole.

in the midst of the feast

the left overs

I had invited my grandparent's family friends, as well. They left before pie time, but still enjoyed trying many new dishes. It was adorable!
Me with the Bauers

eating some apple pie with Riannon and Georgina (the engineer from Spain). Apple and pumpkin pie were specially made by Kara.

Chris decided to make Feuerzangenbowle, which is a sweet tasting alcoholic drink, which involves melting sugar into it. Naturally, melting sugar means setting it on fire...

The Krampuslauf:
Before the rest of the dessert, we headed out for the Krampuslauf. Dec. 4th in Austria is known as the day of the Krampus and November weekends are generally ripe with Krampus parades. The Krampus is an evil creature, who accompanies St. Nikolaus. Bad children get either a potato in their shoe, are carried away and eaten, or are beaten by the Krampus on Dec. 4th. Good children wake up the morning of Dec. 5th and discover chocolate in their shoes from St. Nikolaus. The entire time before Krampus Day, Krampi can be found roaming the streets as soon as it is dark, rattling windows and doors. On the day itself, parents call the local Krampus Guild and book a time for a Krampus to come to the house. They scare the children and go on their merry way.

And, of course, each town as a Krampus parade.

Klagenfurt's happened to be the same night of our Thanksgiving celebration, so we, in effect, had Thankskrampusgiving. All of the surrounding towns send their local Guild to this parade, which the locals describe as tame. Apparently, in smaller towns there are no fences between the Krampi and the observers.

Snarling, they emerge from the fog, ready to frighten children everywhere...

Sometimes they look like death

sometimes they look like goat-men

most of the time they look something like this: large, furry, pointy teeth...you get the idea

Riannon being beaten by an over zealous Krampus

I spent the bulk of the time hiding behind a tree, after one Krampus jumped the fence and started cracking his whip. I was scared, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

After the parade ended, the others headed off to see what the Krampi would do in Alter Platz, while Elisabeth, Christine and I headed back to enjoy the desserts.

Cleaning until 2am, I finally headed off to sleep.

The next day was the grand opening of several nearby Christmas markets, so I was up and off to Friesach, the oldest town in Kärnten, St. Veit, and, finally, to Villach.

In St. Veit, I followed the Krampus feet to town and to two sleepy Krampi with their masks off, waiting to be picked up.

town center with the little market set up

town hall

interesting looking hotel

I walked around the old wall that still surrounds part of town, investigated the magical side alleyways covered in ivy, and wandered about the Christmas market.

Then, I made my way to Villach, where I met Christine and Elisabeth.
We took our life in our hands and braved the ice skating rink, which was jammed with tiny children skating every which direction, playing hockey games, slamming into as many people as possible, and absolutely no one was maintaining any sort of order.

Me, Christine, and Elisabeth in skates

Christine and me with the rink, after surviving our skating session.

We walked around the market, just as night began to fall and entire town began to glow
church tower and Weihnachtsmarkt at night

Exhausted, Christine and I headed home to Klagenfurt.

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