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“Women are armed with fans as men with swords, and sometimes do more execution with them.” – Joseph Addison was a publisher and ran an academy in the 1700s that taught ladies the language of fans

For hundreds of years, women have used accessories as tools for secret communication.

Brooching Diplomacy

Evidenced by recent events, Madeline Albright has never been one to keep her opinions to herself. In former times, however, she expressed her ideas with a bit more subtlety and charm. As US Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright was in charge of monitoring the sanctions against the Iraqis at the end of the first Gulf War. Saddam Hussein did not take kindly to her tough stance. A meeting between her and her Iraqi counterparts was followed up with the publication of poem in the government-controlled Iraqi press entitled “To Madeleine Albright, Without Greetings.” The poem included the line: “Albright, Albright, all right, all right, you are the worst in this night” and ended with a reference to her as an “unparalled serpent.” Ms. Albright’s attire for her next get-together with her Iraqi counterparts included a golden snake brooch.

Kaffeesiederball Fan 2016

Kaffeesiederball Fan 2016

In 1997, when Ms. Albright was appointed as US Secretary of States and thus became the highest ranking female civil servant in US history, she continued using her brooches as an essential part of her “personal diplomatic arsenal.” While balloons, butterflies and flowers signified optimism during diplomatic talks, crabs and turtles indicated frustration. After the Russians were caught tapping the State Department, and even listening in on Ms. Albright’s office, she engaged in the next round of talks with the Russian officials wearing pin with a gigantic bug on it. Stinging message on its way? Ms. Albright donned a wasp pin. Time and again, she accentuated her polite talk with no-nonsense pin speak.

In the same manner, women over the centuries have used ornate fans as both a fashion accessory and a communication tool. Fluttering signals could indicate that the lady in question considers you infatuating or a flop.

Fanning the Flame

Fan from Kaffeesiederball 2011

Fan from Kaffeesiederball 2011

Fan held high at the chest, spread open and pointing downwards: Better luck next time, this girl’s taken.

Fan spread open and the top is lightly pressed against the lips: Shut up, get over here and kiss me.

Fan spread open at shoulder height with pinky finger extended outwards: Take a hike. You’re a total bore.

Fanning self slowly: Nothing to see here, keep moving, I’m hitched.

Fanning self quickly: Engaged. Catch the glint of the rock on my finger as I vigorously bat this fan back and forth.

Fan spread open, pointed upwards and pressed against the heart: I love you.

Campari Fan

Campari Fan

Placing the fan on the right check: Why yes!

Placing the fan on the left check: No way!

Fan closed and pressed against the ear straight up and down (not angled like a telephone!): Call me, maybe. Definitely.

Opening and shutting the fan: You are cruel.

Twirling the fan in the left hand means: We are watched.

Fan closed and pressed against the lips: Get over here and whisper sweet nothings in my ear.

Fan closed and pressed against a coffee cup (or wine glass, beer mug, whiskey flask…): I’m thirsty, sweetcakes, and you look like the perfect man to buy me a drink.

Kaffeesiederball Fan 2014

Kaffeesiederball Fan 2014

But the thing about communication is that it is a two-way street and only effective if the person on the receiving end understands the message being sent. While the press and even Vladimir Putin became quite skilled in recognizing Ms. Albright’s “Read-My-Pin,” codes, it is easy to imagine the young men throughout the ages have had quite a time at making heads and tails of the slow, rapid, hand-switching, waving, fluttering signals of fans to the point where there must have been some Cassanovas-in-waiting who got so frustrated that they simply surrendered and walked away. But take heart. It is equally important to recognize that sometimes, a fan is simply just a fan.

Interested in learning more? Check out these sites:

Wikipedia page of Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy – a fan manufacturer from 1827 from Paris:

Exhibition of 200 pins used by Ms. Albright during her service as US Secretary of State:

Black Wooden Fan

Black Wooden Fan





Is jealousy learned? Would the ideal marriage have an expiration date? Are there good arguments for the legalization of prostitution? Whether you are a book club that drinks wine, a wine club that reads book, Oprah, a college class or just someone who likes to delve deeper, may this free Reader’s Guide to Women and Wild Savages bring you hours of thought-provoking discussion and enrich your reading experience.


The guide is five pages long and broken down into the following topic areas:
1. Love and Marriage
2. Sexuality
3. Women and their Social Role
4. Men and their Social Role
5. Literary Considerations
6. Vienna at the Turn of the Century (1900 – 1910) and Society Today
7. Story Ponderings

Don’t have a copy of the book yet? Get it now at one of your preferred outlets:

Women and Wild Savages Print Version at Amazon


Women and Wild Savages at Amazon for Kindle

Women and Wild Savages at Barnes and Noble for Nook

Women and Wild Savages for Kobo





So here it is – proof that KC got your back: KC’s All-You-Need-to-Know-About New Year’s – compiled over the years to keep you in-the-know and provide ample Vienna New Year’s 101 to enable you to blend in smoothly with the natives before everyone hits the Turbo Punsch stands. You’ve got time till Thursday night so no excuses. Get over the cookie hangover and get reading. Even if you aren’t in Austria – nothing says you can’t do crazy hats, waltz, good luck charms, Glühwein and the New Year’s Day concert where you are and make your 2016 New Year’s Resolution: “I’ll take the plunge and ring in 2017 in Vienna.”

  1. The Number One Most New Year’s City in the World: A must-read post. It’s all here. Complete with photos from my last New Year’s Eve.
  2. Melting Your Fortune Sculpture for the New Year: Everything you always wanted to know about the Austrian fortune-telling tradition of Bleigiessen (lead melting), including a complete why-to-buy, how-to-do-it, what is now being used  nowadays instead of lead and a list of blob fortune-telling interpretations so that once you melt your figure, you can actually interpret your future.

    Lucky Pigs

    Lucky Pigs

  3. Austrian Good Luck Charms and What They Mean: Got Glück? Good Luck Charms and Got Pig? Pigs (and other symbols) as Glücksbringer 
  4. Recipe for Glühwein in “How to Make Glühwein (Mulled Wine) and Spread Good Cheer.” I make a large pot of Glühwein every New Year’s Eve and keep it (along with a pot of my mean down-home chili) on the stove so that before and after the venture along the New Year’s Path, it is there for the taking.

Stay safe this coming New Year’s, have fun, wear a crazy hat and waltz!

Me - New Year's Eve in Vienna

Me – New Year’s Eve in Vienna with lit ears

Thanks for keeping with me this past year.
I wish you and yours all the best in 2016!






 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12, Bible

One of my fondest memories of growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania was the Christmas Eve service at the local church. Some years my parents and I would volunteer to set up the luminaries in the church parking lot before the service. Luminaries are nothing more than small paper lunch bags filled about a quarter of the way with sand to weigh them down and hold a candle that is placed in the center. The luminaries were placed along the sidewalks leading up to the church to form a procession of lights – like the North Star leading the way into the church. At the entrance greeters welcomed you to the service with a hand shake and white candle complete with a cardboard ring to protect your hand from dripping wax.

Light of Peace in Weyer, Upper Austria

Light of Peace in Weyer, Upper Austria

In my memory, the entire service was conducted by candlelight but in reality, I think that it was probably toward the end of the service that the lights were turned off. The church fell silent as each light was distinguished and church elders moved from pew to pew lighting the end row member’s candle who then passed on the light to the other church members in the row. At the very end of the service, we all sang “Silent Night” a cappella by candle light. The significance of one flame illuminating the entire sanctuary was not lost on me, not even as a young child and contributing to the warmth of candles and the anticipation of presents sure to come was an awesome feeling  of oneness with everyone around me and with it a deep sense of inner peace.

When you move abroad, or simply find yourself far away from loved ones during the holidays, tis-the-season can accentuate all the more your aloneness, making this time of year quite challenging. Fortunately for me, Austria is world class when it comes to conveying Christmas in its Ur-sense. Or at least what I think that must be.

Lighting all candles with Light of Peace

Lighting all candles with Light of Peace

Besides the shops and just about everything else being closed from noon on Christmas Eve until midnight on December 27, and not Santa baby but the Christkind (Christ child) bringing the presents here, and this being the birth place of that soul-piercing carol “Silent Night”, many of Austria’s holidays traditions are illuminated by candlelight. And there’s something about candlelight – the dancing shadows cast on walls, the sweet wax smell, the softening of voice levels to intimate whispers – that soothes the soul.

At the beginning of advent, advent wreaths are sold at every market and most grocery stores and each week, another candle is lit. Traditional Christmas figures carved in wood are surrounded by candles and the rising heat from the flames turn the wooden propeller on top. Candles adorn Christmas tree branches and on Christmas eve, the ringing of a small bell summons the children to the candle lit tree (which has been brought and decorated by the Christ child) where the family gathers around to sing Christmas carols and exchange presents.

Christmas Lanterns are used to fetch the Light of Peace and bring home

Christmas Lanterns are used to fetch the Light of Peace and bring home

But one of the traditions I love the very most is a relatively new one (started in 1986)– and this is the tradition of lighting all the candles of the home on Christmas Eve from a single flame from Bethlehem — the Light of Peace (more also in a previous post). How fitting that the tradition of the Light of Peace started in Upper Austria – the same place that Silent Night was penned. The Light of Peace stems from a candle burning in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus. Every year at the end of November, the flame is brought to Austria by a child specially selected for the task. This year, due to the current turmoil in the region, a 9-year-old girl, Ihab Msleh, who comes from an Arabic-Christian family in Bethlehem, lit the candle that was then transported back to Vienna on an Austrian Airlines flight into the care of 10-year-old Niklas Dumhart from St. Georgen an der Gusen. It’s Niklas’ job to spread the light throughout Austria and even other parts of Europe. So far, this year’s Light of Peace has been shared with all of Austria, 30 European countries, many parts of the US (so glad to see Texas now joining in, if only Florida and NC could get on board), some parts of South America and many other places throughout the world. On December 16, Niklas even traveled to the Vatican to share the Light of Peace with Pope Franciskus.

On Christmas Eve, local organizations set up a lantern or candles burning with flames lit from the Light of Peace and make the flame available to everyone in the community. Bearing lanterns from home, folks visit these stations and light their own candles from the Lights of Peace. Once they return home, they then light all the Christmas candles in their homes from the lantern bearing the Light of Peace. So the flame that came from Bethlehem illuminates its glow of peace, candle-by-candle, throughout Austria and the rest of world.

No matter what your religion, creed, nationality, or general state of existence, you have to admit that there is something awe-inspiringly beautiful about one little flame illuminating so many homes in the spirit of peace, joy, love and (hopefully) happiness.


Now grab a lantern and head out to light your candle by the flame of the Light of Peace – locations for Vienna and the USA given below. 


All „manned“ train stations throughout Austria
Available on 24 December beginning at 8 am at all „manned“ Austrian train stations.

The following Vienna Cemeteries: Baumgarten, Feuerhalle Simmering, Hernals, Hietzing, Ottakring, Neustift, Südwest, Stammersdorf Central and Vienna Central (Wiener Zentral Friedhof)
Available on 24 December, 8:30 am till noon

1. District

Boyscout Troop 16 – Schotten, Schotten Church, Freyung 6, 1010 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 10:00 am till 2 pm

3. District

Austrian Red Cross
Nottendorfer Gasse 21, 2. floor, room 223, 1030 Vienna
Directions: U3 Station Erdberg, Exit Nottendorfer Gasse. Please use the main entrance Tel:  +43 50 144
When: 24 December 2015 from 08:00 am till 4 pm

4. District

Blood Donation Center oft he Austrian Red Cross (Blutspendezentrale des Österreichischen Roten Kreuzes), Blutspendezentrale, Wiedner Hauptstraße 32, 1040 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 08:00 am till 1 pm

6. District

Boyscout Troop 17/47 , Mariahilfer Church, Barnabitengasse, 1060 Vienna

Light of Peace - Weyer Youth Group, Upper Austria

Light of Peace – Weyer Youth Group, Upper Austria

When: 24 December 2015 from 4 pm till 5 pm

11. District

Boyscout Troop 73 , Evangelic Arc (Evangelische Arche), Svetelskystraße 7, 1110 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 3 pm till 4 pm

12. District

Boyscout Troop 10/48 , Khleslplatz 24 und Tivoligasse 20, 1120 Vienna
When: 24 December 4 pm till 5 pm, Children’s Service, Khleslplatz 24, and 11 pm Midnight service, Tivoligasse 20

13. District

Living without Barriers (OHNE BARRIEREN LEBEN), Hietzinger Hauptstraße 22, 1130 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 09:00 am till 1 pm

23. District

Boyscout Troop 32, Alt-Erlaa, Church Alt-Erlaa
When: 24 December 4 pm – 5 pm


Klosterneuburg City Hall (Klosterneuburg Rathaus):
When: Wednesday, 23 December from 08.30 am until 11.00 am the assembly hall (Aula) of the Rathaus


Light of Peace in the USA 2015 – just click on the map

 Previous posts about the Light of Peace:

Some asides I would like to add:

  1. Austria desperately needs a handy map showing Light of Peace locations like the US has. I had to scavenge the internet to figure out where it is. Aren’t there any tech-savvy boy scouts out there who need a badge project?
  2. A nice family tradition is to give a child a candle at birth that can be used in religious celebrations (baptisms,etc) and then when the child grows up and ties the knot, each person’s birth candle can be used to light the one wedding candle which can then be used to light the candle of their child.
  3. If your community has no Light of Peace, take the helm and organize one for next year and spread the light. You’ll be happy you did and get a badge in my book.