Austria has so many traditions and customs, especially in December. One I haven’t mentioned so far takes place on the 28th.
So picture this – it is our first year of owning our house, I am on Christmas holidays ready for a sleep in, and before 5am on December 28th, the doorbell rings.
My instant reaction was panic. Who knocks at the door at such a time? Only police, right? Not that it’s ever happened to me… but I’ve seen it on TV. Hubby calmly rolls out of bed grumbling while I stay where I am, covers pulled up to my ears, heart pumping, waiting for the bad news.
And guess what it was?
Kids… chanting a rhyme… and slapping the adults who answer the door with branches.
Apparently called ‘Innocent Children’s Day’ – kids are encouraged to visit the residents in their neighbourhood at an absurdly early time in the morning to wish them health and happiness through chanting a verse:
“Schapp, schapp, frisch und g’sund, s’ganze Jahr gsund bleibn, nit klunzn nit klagn, bis i wieder kumm schlagn.” [“Snap, snap, fresh and healthy, stay healthy all year with no complaints till I come knocking again.”]
The background for this custom is no laughing matter, however – commemorating the child murders in Bethlehem – and hence the adults are ‘punished’ with branches. The punished adults accept the good wishes and send the kids off with sweets and a few Euros.
I’m all for keeping tradition alive, but not when it wakes me up on my Christmas holidays. So these days on the 28th our doorbell gets disabled. I have no desire to relive that panic 😉