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Posts tagged ‘traditions’


Just gotta call it fate. I post the maypole article below a few days ago. Then just two days later, I am walking through the first district past a cozy little restaurant near the university and low and behold, what greets me — a stolen maypole. Some cheeky students snatched the maypole from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences of Vienna (Boku), transported it on the Bim (do maypoles need tickets, Herr Schaffner?) and erected it at that restaurant to hang out for a while and spread May good-cheer to the lawyers, politicians, tourists and students who pass the 1st district eatery on their way to their next appointment.  LOVE IT! (see featured photo at beginning of text). Rumor has it that the green-with-envy Technical University students have asked if the stunt qualifies their Boku brethren for extra credit points because everyone knows, “while the TU students are working their butts off for every point possible, the Boku students are racking them in with far easier tasks and twice the fun.” Well, TU students, if you’re good, maybe the Boku students who swiped the maypole will invite you to the Jause and beer that will no doubt be demanded as ransom.

In any case, I’ll keep my readers updated as the story progresses…

Original post about the maypole tradition:

While flag-waving workers and balloon-tied toddlers led by SPÖ politicians parading to the beat of marching bands through Vienna’s street culminate in a sea of red at the city’s Rathaus, another Austrian tradition takes places in what may appear to be tranquil town squares throughout the country. Perhaps it’s the chimes of the church bells or the gurgling of the square’s fountain that lure you into the belief that here is one place in the the world at least, where one can sip one’s Melange, admire the budding window boxes and enjoy the scent of freshly baked bread tempting you from the bakery next door.  No worries. The universe of this little town square is on its proper course.

But then you look up to admire the town’s symbol of pride. The pole that you noticed the townspeople raising the day before with music and fanfare, the tall, slender, wooden pole that towered above the highest house in town with the small pine tree attached to its tippy-top, it’s different now. There’s something missing. The tree! The tree is gone! And from the corner of your eye, you spot ’em. Two young men stealthily stuffing the last remaining pine branch into the back of their Opel before they speed off in the direction of the neighboring village.



Yes, in an annual attempt at one-upmanship, villages throughout this serene land of white windy winters that melt into spring, engage in a tradition of a more mischievous thing. They steal each other’s maypoles. And because the maypoles only rival the Gamsbart in their display of pride and masculinity, they are guarded round-the-clock. But some villages prove more clever than others. Upper Austrians, for example, have been quite crafty. In 2012 a group from Engerwitzdorf, a town outside of Linz with just 8000 inhabitants, managed in three nights to steal a total of twelve maypoles from neighboring villages. And afterwards they even had the audacity to cheekily  display their bounty along the highway.  In Lower Austria, another group of thieves chose an even more brazen place to display their prize — the lion’s enclosure of the Haag zoo.

But it’s all in good fun. And tradition doesn’t only stipulate the amount of days that the trees can be stolen (three after being raised) but also the means of return. The home village loads some kegs of beer onto a tractor and drives the ransom payment to the hostage-taking village in return for the “missing” tree.  Unless you are the mayor of Linz, in which case you may decide not to pay the beer because the tree went up 4 days before May 1 and was guarded 5 days, and then stolen 10 days after it went up. Whoever said math isn’t useful in the real world? And that sometimes it pays to turn a blind eye to numbers and stringent rules in the name of good fun.

Is stealing a Maypole Illegal: According to this gov. flyer if you keep to the tradition, it is rarely ever penalized:

Krone report about stolen maypole in Vienna and its subway adventure:




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!




Melting Your Fortune Sculpture For the New Year

Twice in my life, I have had my fortune told by soothsayers. Once, at an esoteric conference in Washington, DC that my college roommate and I visited for lack of something better to do on a Sunday when we should have been studying for finals. As I innocently passed her booth, a babushka clad lady who looked otherwise sane, grabbed my hand, turned it over and demanded to know if the guy with us was my boyfriend. Undeterred by my doubtless shocked expression, she explained she didn’t want my money (she normally charged 20 bucks a reading). Obviously, this was an emergency, and it was her civic duty to warn me in a hushed voice and the most alarmed manner that the gentleman in question was completely wrong for me but there would be someone else in my future who I knew in a former life. And the gentleman in question shouldn’t fret because he and I would meet again in another life on Venus.

Heart metal figure on spoon being melted over a candle

Heart metal figure on spoon being melted over a candle

The second time was a Palestinian student who was in the States and studying medicine. She claimed to read coffee grinds and offered to read mine. Always a sucker for a good coffee, I obliged. She told me she saw me dancing with someone I got along with well and for my future she saw lots

Bleigiessen figure 2014-2015 - a dragon? A boat? A swan?

Bleigiessen figure 2014-2015 – a dragon? A boat? A swan?

of cows. Concerned I might be wasting thousands of dollars on a college education to harvest the land, I inquired further. She explained that cows meant a good fortune and my concerns about a future filled with wake-up calls with cow teats was unfounded.

Needless to say, I’ve become a bit skeptical about fortune telling. But alas, my romanticism perseveres over my skepticism and as well as being a sucker for a good coffee, I love the idea that someone can examine your hand and read some lines, or peer into a coffee cup and interpret your grinds or decipher the figure you’ve melted, and predict what lady fate has in store for you.

My fortune from last year - a bird

My fortune from last year – a bird – my hopes should have been fulfilled this past year – though he also kinda looked like a dragon

From December 26 – December 31, in addition to all the good luck charm kiosks you’ll witness springing up throughout Vienna’s first district, (Good luck charms definedPigs and why they’re lucky), you’ll also be seeing “Bleigießen” packages at the stands, and your local Billas and other grocery stores. (note for smart shoppers: the packages at Libro cost 2.49€, at Billa 2.99€ – same stuff). And though you may know that “Blei” means “lead” and “gießen” “to pour”, you might still not get why hanging amongst pigs, horseshoes, four leaf clovers, and chimney sweeps, are packages of rather bloated metal versions of these exact same figures along with a metal spoon with a wooden handle and a long list of objects and meanings

Time to fortune tell. Because in Austria, you won’t get a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant, but you won’t need to. You can tell your fortune for the coming 364 days every New Year’s Eve through the Austrian tradition of Bleigießen.

Me - New Year's Eve in Vienna

Me – New Year’s Eve in Vienna – pleased about a successful Bleigiessen no doubt (or maybe just some good Glühwein)

And no worries about subjecting yourself to lead poisoning by engaging in the holiday fun. It’s no longer lead being melted into indiscernible figures foretelling Austrian and Austriaficianado futures, it’s tin.

1) Package of Bleigießen figurines and Bleigießen spoon.
2) Bowl of water
3) flame (either candle or that nice little Bunsen burner kind of pot you use for the fondue)
4) Interpretation list (see below)
5) good friends
6) a creative, open mind


Holding spoon with figure over candle

Holding spoon with figure over candle

Sometime around 10 pm (give yourself time afterwards to go into the city) on New Year’s Eve, after you’ve amply stuffed yourself either with the mandatory fondue or raclette accompanied by some Austrian Vetliner, Zweigelt or Glühwein, you’re ready to get down to business. First you select your preferred tin figurine, place it on the spoon and place the spoon over a


Dropping hot liquid metal into bowl of water

flame. Let the metal totally melt and then toss into the bowl of water. Be careful with the tossing, the metal drips can get all over the place. Also, practice a bit a turn of the wrist can mean the difference between “watch out for thieves”, and “a baby is looming.” Try to keep your toss in one place, shorten the distance. Then use your imagination to interpret what your figure most closely resembles.


Figurines for Bleigiessen

Figurines for Bleigiessen

Anchor – help is on the horizon

Angel – Good will come to you

Antlers – Misfortune in love

Anvil – Care in career

Apple – trust will be broken

Axe – Disappointment in love

Bag – Unexpected luck

Ball – Keep your bad mood to yourself

Balloon – free yourself from your reins

Included list of fortunes told

Included list in Bleigiessen pacakage of fortunes told

Barge – Luck in your plans

Basket – Lucky in love

Beaker – conserve your energy

Bee – A wedding is looming (gotta love that the wedding “looms”)

Beetle – Nice love experience

Bell – An inheritance will be within reach

Belt – a friendship will deepen

Bird – Your hopes will be fulfilled

Boat – a voyage is on the horizon

Bomb – You’ll escape danger

Bottle – Happy times are on the way

Bridge – new obligations are coming

Broom – A conflict is looming

Bucket – contentment in relationships

Bush (not the former Pres) – Recognize the abilities of others

Butterfly – boundless luck awaits

Cake – A celebration is on the horizon

Camel – new tasks

Candlestick – A light will turn on

Car – promises an undertaking or a risk

Carnation – friends, pleasure, will come your way

Castle – Wishing for change

Cat – you will be spoilt

Chapel – Your strive for peace and quiet

Chicken – Careful of fire

Chimney sweep – Lucky in love

Chrysanthemum – Someone needs your help

Church – You will soon found a household

Clover – contentment and luck

Column – A wish remains unfulfilled

Cone – Care in transactions

Cow – Healing

Crib – Offspring are on their way

Cup – luck and health

Cylinder – Important things await you

Dagger – You will be victorious

Dancer – Don’t take life so seriously

Eagle – success in career

Ear – keep your opinions to yourself

Egg – You family will grow (surprise this one wasn’t “A baby is looming”)

Elephant – You have a lot of power for understanding

Eye Glasses – You will grow very old (hopefully not in a year’s time)

Falcon – someone is jealous of you

Feather – you’re at home with change

Fence – You will clarify a misunderstanding

Field– luck and contentment

Fish – people are talking about you

Fist – You feel beaten

Flag, waving – Head and heart are in different places

Flask – don’t tease anyone

Flowers – new friendships develop

Fork – Arguments and disputes

Frog – You’ll possibly win lots of money

Gallows – Protect yourself from false friends

Garden – A new love will cross your path

Gate – You will change residences

Goat – Expect an inheritance

Goblet – happy future

Gondola – An adventure will come your way

Goose – your luck is fragile

Guitar – secret longings

Hammer – You will go your own way

Hat – Good news

Heart – luck and health will come your way

Hook – obstacles block your path

Horseshoe – A good transaction awaits

Hose – You will be taunted

House – Your plans will bring success

Island – You are lonely

Jug – Inconveniences

Keys – Leave others their secrets

Ladder – You will be promoted

Lantern – Something will come to light

Ladder, broken – Make quicker decisions

Lips – sensual hours await

Lion – you will find friends

Lizard – A great ill will quickly clear

Marten (Marder – the weasel looking devilish creature in the Alps that likes to sneak into your engine and bite through all the cables and hoses and anything else rubbery (like brake lines!)) – protect yourself from thieves

Mask – show your true face

Messenger – a letter with important news will arrive

Moon – Honor awaits you

Mound – Success demands lots of work

Mushroom – You will be lucky in love

Nail – Better times are coming

Nest with eggs or birds – A happy home life awaits you

Oven – wealth is on the horizon

Owl – protect yourself from a horrible environment

Ox – you will win over powerful friends

Palms – a distant trip in a foreign land is on the horizon

Palm Trees – A long held dream will be fulfilled

Parrot – you talk too much

Pig – Lucky in play

Pipe – Careful! Danger ahead

Pistol – You will be disappointed in love

Plane – Much success in open competitions

Plate – You can be generous

Plow – You must work harder

Porcupine – Someone is envious of you

Pulpit – You are self-opinionated

Rhino – that which you pursued will be yours

Rocking chair – Make a decision

Rocks – A lot of work awaits you

Rose – joyful times are coming your way

Ruins – save up for the future

Sailboat – Good developments in your job

Saw – A decisive change is coming

Scale – plan ahead and you will be successful

Scissors – An important decision awaits

Sickle – Do not sneer at the small joys of life

Sheep – someone will try to use you

Shell – great responsibility awaits you

Shoe– You have a lot to do

Shuffle – earning a living is hard work

Sled – Use your connections

Slippers – You will soon marry

Sloth – All your dreams will come true

Snake –Someone is envious of your success

Spear – Someone wants to fight with you

Spider – Luck is dangle on a silk thread

Spike – Your dreams will come through

Sponge – cleanse your soul

Spoon – People are talking about you

Statue – You overestimate yourself

Steps – New challenges await you

Stick – Your life will change

Stork – A trip is on the horizon

Surfer – you will weather stormy waters

Sword – A decisive change

Table – You will be invited to a party

Teacup – You will receive a visit from a lady

Tent – an adventure awaits you

Tower – Believe in yourself

Train – Departure of a friend

Tree – your abilities will grow

Triangle – financial improvement

Trumpet – good prospects for the future

Tunnel – You will recuperate from a terrible shock

Umbrella – Avoid troubles

Urn – Don’t hang on the past

Vase – You will be popular

Vice – Be content, with what you have

Wall – Your perseverance pays off

Watch – time is money

Wedding ring – You will soon marry – or have an affair!

Weights – Success in career

Wheel – Big changes

Whip – You need a strong hand (must have been penned by Nietzsche)

Wreath – Amends in circle of friends

Wrench – hold tight to your good fortune

Zeppelin – Everything will work out

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Krampus is Coming to Get You!

Krampus misunderstanding - he thinks KC's been naughty

Krampus misunderstanding – he thinks KC’s been naughty

Making a list. Checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

And you? Worried. Just a little. Maybe more than a little? Cause you haven’t behaved. Right? Come on, now. Admit it.

I see that smile. Oh yeah. You’ve been naughty, haven’t you?

The workout regime that always starts tomorrow. The paper you promised weeks ago (you know the one I mean). The call from Auntie Em you didn’t manage to pick up in time. The text message you never got. The last piece of double chocolate extra rich cake you didn’t eat.

Krampus takes the bad and leaves the good

Krampus takes the bad and leaves the good

Ahh, yes. You’ve been naughty, alright. And this year it won’t be a lump of coal in your stocking. Nope. This is the year you’ll be making a close encounter of a goat something or another kind. They’re coming from the mountains. Coming from their caves. Wielding their sticks. Clanging their bells. And they just LOVE naughtiness.

And you know who you are. You know exactly who you are.

Yep. While all the good kiddies did their homework, and ate their sauerkraut, you were in your man cave watching Breaking Bad, and pretending to fix the vacuum cleaner. You can fool Auntie Em but you can’t fool Nikolas. He’ll be stuffing bags filled with mandarins, nuts, chocolate and cookies in the shoes of all the shiny happy good people of the world. Nauseatingly well-behaved. You know the ones. And your shoes? They’ll remain an empty stinking reminder of missed opportunity. The opportunity to have been good and do what you were told. But you didn’t. And rarely do.

These Aussies must not have been too naughty

These Aussies must not have been too naughty

And this year, my naughty little friend, you’re gonna pay. You can try to find a place to cower and hide but that man cave of yours won’t do you any good. Not this year. Because this year…

Krampus is coming.

It starts harmless enough. An innocent suggestion to visit the advent market at the old castle. Ahh, how nice. Austria. Traditional. The Old Country. Land of Silent Nights and children who dress in sailor suits and sing Christmas carols with their angelic little voices. Where Christmas is still about the Holiday spirit. A Christmas market. A real live Christmas market. Like under the train set. Only better. With live ABBA music, hand-carved manager scenes, gingerbread hearts, and hot roasted chestnuts sold in paper cones. Quaint. Genuine.

Krampus and KC

Krampus and KC plotting to get those who are naughty

Until darkness settles in the shadows beyond the decorated trees and the cold starts nipping at our noses, and we elbow our way to the Punsch stand Austrian style. You mistake the glint in my eyes for the after-glow of Waterloo or the before glow of Glühwein, but in fact it is something far more sinister, my friend.


Krampus Gathering

The Krampus Huddle

Because that rattle of the chain beyond the stands and through the gate beckoning throngs of parents to drag their terrified children into the courtyard, is also a summoning you, my imp, naughty old you.

Innocently, so unassumingly, I suggest, “Let’s go and see what’s up.”

And you? Tingly with Glühwein, you smile and follow.

Poor bright-eyed bushy-tailed ignorant you.

Lump of coal in your stocking. You wish.

No, you’re in Krampusland now and the furry monsters have awakened from the depths of their dungeon-like dens to come and fetch you.

The bonfire rages, and the grunts intensify as the doors to the castle shake. A poem. Someone recites a poem and I translate. At first you are tickled pink. How sweet. A poem about Nikolas rewarding the well-behaved children.

Krampus with Babies

Krampus with Babies

But wait! There’s more!

Rhymes of beatings and punishment for those –like you—who misbehave.

Yep. You can run but you can’t hide.


Music bellows through the night – a terrifying heed to the creatures from beyond.

“Come get them! They’re here! The naughty ones are gathered and ready!” The unspoken words thunder in time to the music.

Krampus' Basket

Krampus fetches the Naughty Ones and puts them in his basket and whisks them to his cave

They are coming to snatch you up, toss you in their baskets and haul you down into their wicked caves.

The doors smash open. It’s time.

Nikolas  vanishes.

Not one, not two, a whole herd of otherworldly creatures burst into the screaming masses. Smoke and fire follow in their wake. Cow bells clang the dreadful chimes of doom. An angry sea of black, brown, grey and white goat hides. Ungodly horns sharpened to pierce the darkest souls slice the icy air. Blood-shot eyes ravenous for victims scan the trembling prey. Jagged teeth and snake-like tongues hang in anticipation.

Armed with chains, cauldrons and Ruten the demons sway and dance, and push through the screeching throngs looking for you. An hour, how long an hour can seem — like an eternity — maybe longer, they search, they target, they wave their Rute and grunt and chase.

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Krampus Clang with Cow Bells

Krampuses Clang with Cow Bells

Yes, the Krampuses have come.

Have you been good?


Rute: branches tied together — the Krampus tool of choice for corporal punishment
Perchta/Perchten: another word used for Krampus
Perchtenlauf/Krampuslauf: “Krampus run” — describes the event of the Krampuses coming
Katscher Krampus: the Krampuses featured here (from the Schloss Neugebäude Krampuslauf in Vienna on Dec 7, 2013)
December 5 & 6: Krampus comes on the 5th and Nicolas on the 6th but they often come together as a team — whoever said Krampuses can’t work efficiently — but they can show up anytime from about Dec 1 – Dec 9, so be vigilant.
cow bells: Krampus must-have accessory to notify parents to “Bring out you kids”

Krampus uses a "Rute" made of jagged branches to beat naughty ones (no one dares to tell him it's forbidden)

Krampus uses a “Rute” to beat out the naughtiness (no one dares to tell him corporal punishment is now a no-no)

basket: the Krampus backpack complete with naughty-kid compartment
chains: another Krampus must-have accessory
Schadenfreude: joy at another’s (deserved) misfortune –and don’t act like you have never experienced it or the Krampus will get you for lying.
Inquisition: hard times for Krampus because he was forbidden (no one was allowed to imitate the devil but
Krampus perservered in remote villages – he’s no whimp)
Don’t tell anyone I told you- some people suspect there might be young gentlemen who dress up like Krampuses which would explain why many young ladies have often been the targets of  many a swinging Rute throughout the decades
Horns: often from chamois
Fur: from goats
Masks: usually hand-carved from wood
ABBA: indication in Austria that the party is bound to be good and worth attending– Austrians almost love ABBA more than they love the Hapsburgs and if you want to make friends and influence people in this country — know your ABBA trivia and song lyrics

Krampus with boy and girl

Krampus with boy and girl

Paper promised weeks ago — you know which one and Krampus will find you cause I gave him your name and address.
Auntie Em: a sweet lady whose phone calls you should NEVER ignore because the guilt you will suffer is far more dire than the Krampus’ wrath (right, Auntie Em?)

Krampus and a very "brav" KC

Krampus and a very “brav” KC

Krampus and Aussies

Krampus and Aussies