It’s Christmas time again, one of my favorite times of the year and most stressful, just like for everyone else. In an effort to add more meaning to my life, to add more –isms besides materialism, I’ve been looking at my spiritual life.
I was raised a Roman Catholic, but with an Austrian flavor to it. My mother is Austrian, from a small town called Oberalm, near Salzburg (think Sound of Music.) Now, Austria, my mother’s area in particular, is definitely Catholic. It was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire for a very long time. The Catholic Church has ruled there since the 6th century. Every church we went to was like a cathedral. My mother wasn’t particularly churchy (she thought she had been excommunicated because she did the evil thing of marrying my protestant father in City Hall – which is also like a cathedral over there.) Even as a child, she didn’t care much for church.
I loved church. I have distinct memories of my First Communion classes. I really got into praying, speaking with The Old Man. Then, some of the other girls made fun of the way I held my hands when I pray. My first religion related trauma. That’s when I began having problems with people and religion. Let’s face it. Religion is just about the people. God doesn’t care what religion you are. She just wants to be loved. But people will screw up religion every time.
Anyway, getting back on topic. Where my mother is from is also a very pagan area, part of the original Celts (the Hallstatt era.) And many of my relatives come form that stock, alpine farmers, salt miners, that sort of thing. My great-mother said a complete rosary every day and could recite all of the psalms by heart, then, she would go read cards (like Tarot only with a regular playing deck) for a witch who lived in the swamps (the witch had five kids, each child with a different father, she was a local midwife and she dispensed questionable herbal remedies and she was referred to as a witch.)
Saint Nicholas Day is December 6th, 2005. On this day, the Catholic saint, who is no longer officially a saint, St. Nicholas, travels around to all of the children dispensing nuts and fruit to those who have been good. He has a companion called Krampus. This is a hairy horned being that switches bad children and leaves them coal. He looks like what Christians think of as the devil, but he’s not, he’s older than that. When I was about 8, my brother got a St. Nicholas puppet and I got a red Krampus puppet. I was traumatized again. I made such a fuss, screaming and crying horribly. I love St. Nicholas Day. I still celebrate it and I make sure all of our children keep it up. It’s so popular in Austria now, that hordes of Krampus travel the streets in packs, switching people’s legs and carrying women off.