Friday, 5 December 2008

The Evening Before Saint Nicholas Day

Living in Vienna
is full of days of wine and roses,

but when the days
grow shorter

and nights
start creeping up
on you

at four o'clock
in the afternoon,

a mysterious transformation
takes place.

Rose bushes get wrapped with burlap,
turning proud garden queens into bag ladies.

No more
is it a proliferation of blooming roses
that lines your paths,
but paper wrapped pots of red and ivory Poinsettia,
sitting like silent congregations
in front of flower shops.

They stare at you,
flaming red, one-eyed, full of resentment
that instead of taking one of them home,
you fell in love with a white Amaryllis.

You hold your flower tight,
and hurry home
through dimly lit
narrow medieval streets.

All of a sudden
your every step

from ancient walls.

You walk faster,
trying to escape

all those shop windows
assaulting you

with enigmatic displays
in red and black.

You can't help
but notice that

among the innocent looking displays,

little furry horned creatures
are lurking,

as if waiting for prey,

with large whicker panniers,
chains in hand.

Just when you feel close
to loosing your sense of composure,
you turn the corner.

There, sheltering light
from large glass chandeliers
falls out onto the pavement,
reaching out to you,
offering shelter.

Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December and particularly in the evening of December 5 and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas also slight birching especially of young females by the Krampus is part of tradition.
(Source: Wikipedia)

After St. Nicholas' visit
He has left chocolates,
apples, nuts, and clementines.

First published
on December 6, 2007


  1. oh what a lovely, atmospheric post Merisi! For a moment I was transported...

  2. A slight "birching." Hum, now that sounds rather interesting.

  3. Beautiful photos with history behind the day of St. Nicholas.

    I have a thank you on my blog for your kindness.

  4. Fabulous! I love the suspense.

  5. PG,
    you make me smile, thank you! :-)

    Charles Gramlich,
    one usually associates birching with Finnish Saunas, I suppose (I remember a sauna story, playing somewhere in Scandinavia, involving a foreign novice, but can't recall the writer. After suffering through the various rituals, and wishing fervently for an end to it, at the end he found them quite addictive as a whole *g*).

    Barbara Martin,
    you are welcome! :-)

    A Thousand Clapping Hands,
    thank you! :-)

  6. Immer wenn ich bei dir bin, werde ich ganz ergriffen von der Atmosphäre hier. Das ist echte Kunst. Wunderschön! Wenn ich jemals beschreiben müsste, wie ich Wien mit meinen eigenen Augen sehe, müsste ich einfach wortlos auf dein Blog verweisen...

  7. You should publish a Christmas/Winter coffee table book. Your pictures are evoke wonderful feelings!


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