I am Bahattin from Turkey. Since 1st of October i am working as a volunteer for a youth center in Telfs. Altough i have been in Austria before i could not have chance to get in touch with people this much closer and to get know them and their cultures properly. My first days in Austria started amazing. My house, my homemate, my collegues everything and everyone was so nice. Until the second wave of pandemic hit us…
Second wave brought second lockdown with it. One more time we closed ourselves to houses. I had some digital works for youth center and rest of time was passing with reading, running and watching Netflix. During these days i have got and invitation from my German friend Marie. I didn’t even know we have 2 weeks of holiday during christmas. She invited me to her hometown and celebrate Christmas with her family. It was an fabulous idea! It would be really nice to see Marie again after 9 months and despite of the corona situation i could experience one of the most important cultural event of european people.
I started to packing for my exciting travel. Marie was informing me about christmas and according to her suggestions i went to market to buy some christmas presents to her parents. As far as i learnt they like some special Tirolian foods such as Getrocknete Steinpilze and Tiroler Speck. As far as i learnt presents are one of the most enjoyful part of Christmas! (I will tell others below)
I was just leaving from the shopping center. Something took my attention and i started to walk toward the place. It was a Christmas Tree shop, surrounded by fences and there were lots of various size of trees. They were just waiting for to be bought. This reminded me our Sacrifice Fest in Turkey. During this fest, lot of cow and sheep bazaars appears around the cities. And people goes there and buy one animal for their family. Then bring them to butcher. They take 1/4 of meats and they donate the rest 3/4 meats to poor people. It is such a social event makes bridge between poor and rich people. Also people visit their families, elder parents and we cook and eat all together for 4 days.
On 19th of December i was in the train from Innsbruck to Saarland. When the train crossed the German border 3 polices came to me and asked for passport and my travel quarantine registiration. Even as a person from out of Europe like me, it was so unusual to have border control in schengen. But they were so nice and helpful. After 5 years i was in Germany again and while watching outside from window i was thinking about how time flows rapidly even we don’t realize…
During my travel i had 3 train transfer, and it was so impressive to observe places from Telfs to Saarland all the way around. The train passed huge cities like Munich, small cities like Kufstein, and smaller towns and villages which surrounded by farms. You can even realize in this route changing of plant types. This was such a nice experience.
I have arrived to Saarbrücken at late hour. Marie picked me up from train station and we went their home. Her parents didn’t sleep and wait for welcome me. This was such cute and warm. I was also so tired because of the travel and everybody went to sleep…
Saarbrücken is a small city which based around old coal mines at south-west of Germany. City is consist of small streets and really nice and old traditional houses. As an architect, i impressed from this well preserved town and low density buildings.
Decorating Christmas Tree!
Next morning, i woke up quite late because of my tireness. When i went downstairs there was already a big tree middle of the living room. Marie and her father was trying to put some lights on the tree. He offer me a coffee for getting awake (probably i was still looking so tired). He went to kitchen and i helped Marie for putting lights. After completing lights we start to put other decorations. End of the day we have a so cute christmas tree. I was curious about what happening these trees after christmas. I asked this her mother and she answered ‘We throw them from window’. This is another funny and cultural part of christmas. I said ‘ So it is in good place now. Near the window!’
Christmas Evening and Dinner!
My favorite part was just beginning. The thing about christmas which made me most impressed was dinner with family. Since before i traveled there, Marie was mentioning family gathering is the soul of Christmas. I understand her better when i witness it. Since i came to Austria, almost 3 months passed. While i spend time with Marie’s family, i realize that how much i miss this family atmosphere.
They had invited her aunt and she didn’t even know i am from Turkey. This unknown caused too many funny moments. After a while we get know each other and before dinner when we drink champange she was looking at me so strange. And suddenly she asked ‘Are you allow to drink alcohol?’. Everybody started to laughing because i was the person who was drinking beer all the time in last 3 days. After a while we sat dinner table and there was a slice of bacon on my bread. She started to starring at me the same way like before. And she asked again ‘Are you allow to eat bacon?’. Actually it was so nice of her that warning me about. But others they know that i am already eating bacon and drinking alcohol, they start laughing everytime after these type of questions. But i informed her patiently about more than half of Turkish people have a secular life like me and also we are not riding camels… 🙂
After dinner we sat in livingroom and all presents were already under the tree. I wasn’t expecting that they also buy some presents for me too. This is why i really suprised and was so happy. I had already become the child that i was watching only in movies who getting lot of presents in christmas. We opened the packages with a game. Everyone choosed a number on a dice. We roll dice and the person who matched with the number go for open one of his packet. After these ritual we made a video call with Marie’s grandmother and her brother who studying in Innsbruck. We spent rest of evening with drinking chatting and playing games.
Rest of my days in Saarbrucken passed as same like Christmas evening. We were cooking, eating, playing, watching movies together. I even cooked some Turkish dishes for them. After being long time alone in quarantine in Austria, this family gathering was brilliant for me.
Consequently, all the time i spent with a family in christmas mood made me notice that even most of new generation people from both side of east and west prefer staying away from a religious life, they should still keep these type of events to keep family relations alive. Thus we will save our organic connections despite of globalization which makes us living, studying, working far away easily from our hometowns and making our family relationships weaker. No matter how we mention them: Christmas, Easter, Ramadan or Eid, we are still human and we will always need those deep connections with our past.
And we will always be in need of a real warm hug more than a whatsapp emoji.
Merry Christmas !