November 1 – Allerheiligen – All Saint’s Day
Too good to be forgotten
And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!
~ Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
I woke up this morning with a rather long to-do list. By the time I shuffled my way to the front door to fetch the morning newspaper, my long list had dwindled to zero items. Why? Because the Saturday paper was missing and that could only mean one thing. And no, you’re wrong. We did get some random tricker-or-treaters but the thought that they could have pulled a prank and stolen the paper never even occurred to me. Vienna tends to be a rather safe city and I have rather vigilant neighbors and a mutt who lives on the 4th floor who would throw a fit if even the Fairy Godmother tried to sneak past him. I mean this is the country where someone I know left his iPod on the train, called the good ol’ ÖBB and of course his iPod had been turned in and ÖBB had it in the mail and sent back to him that same week.
No, a missing morning paper is always the tall tale sign that it’s a national holiday that I’ve probably forgotten. Normally not a bad thing on a work day but on a Saturday, a rather unfortunate occurrence. Because a national holiday in Austria means that EVERYTHING is closed.
The Saturday market, the bakery, the hair dresser, the grocery store, all closed. And since nothing in Austria is open on Sundays, ever, except the random life-saving bakery and the train station claustrophobic-inducing grocery stores with aisles that get narrower as you shop, then when you overlook a holiday, you are reduced to waiting 61 hours (!) from Friday evening 7 pm until Monday morning 8 am until everything opens once again. You’d be amazed at the creative culinary delights you can whip up from cans of expired baked beans and boxes of couscous hiding deep in the depths of your empty pantry. Because of course, the same country that sees fit to close their grocery stores for long periods of time is the same place yet to discover how practical warehouse-sized boxes of spaghetti noodles and large jars of sauce can be. When you live in a country that places a high value on healthy food options, you have to also accept that the loaf of bread you buy might actually not have enough preservatives to keep it fresh for five months.
But I digress.
What I really wanted, was to direct you to a post about All Saint’s Day written last year which you might have missed. Because while I might suffer slight hunger pangs this weekend from some bare kitchen shelves, I’ll suck it up and tell myself that, according to the Austrians, fasting is healthy. Then I’ll throw on my jacket tonight and make my way to a cemetery because it’s something you don’t want to miss — the sea of flickering candle lights illuminating Austrian’s cemeteries on November 1 — hauntingly beautiful. And be grateful to have a day to think back and remember those who we loved and who have already reached the inevitable end of our life’s journey. Sure, they’re always there in our hearts but having one special day where everyone is remembering, together, in their own way, their own, is special.