Posted by: Nazausgraben | December 31, 2022

A QUICK THOUGHT AT THE TURNING OF THE NEW YEAR

At midnight with the turning of each new year, church bells begin to toll across all of Austria. Whether in the city or the countryside, the heavens resound with a glorious echoing cacophony which continues until the clock strikes 10-minutes into the first morning of the new year. From every direction fireworks launched from near and far alight in the surrounding pitch; with each explosion one can for fleeting moments see the towering Alpine mountains that line the surround of our valley.

At the strike of twelve, much of Austria is tuned to the state broadcaster, the ORF, on radio, television or the internet. Whilst the midnight descent of the lighted globe in Manhattan is the signal in the US for the start of the next year, it is the ringing of Austria’s largest church bell, the Pummerin, in a tower of the Cathedral in Vienna which serves that purpose here. Its low sobering yet majestic booming toll reminds one both of death and life; the death and mourning of the past year and the new birth of what is to come.

I have below attached a video file link where you can listen to the new year’s tolling of the Pummerin. It is followed by the ballet troupe of the Vienna State Opera dancing to the much beloved waltz, An der schönen blauen Donau, composed in 1866 by Johann Strauss (the younger).

With the end of this presentation, some return to their lusty celebrations which had already been well underway for some hours. Others find their ways to the warm comfort of their beds, turning off the lights and in the dark stillness, await the coming first dawn.

Susi and I wish you and yours a most blessed, joyous and healthy new year! PROSIT NEUJAHR!

Posted by: Nazausgraben | December 28, 2022

HOLA! HOLA!

Upon awakening this morning, I became immediately concerned that there was something afoot, yet in my clearing mind I could not think of what that might be. Yes, we are well into the Christmas Octave…Saint Stevens Day was on Monday, the shops in Reutte re-opened for business yesterday and…this must be the 28th of December….28th of December, just what is it… then I remembered. It is Feast of the Holy Innocents Day (Tag der unschuldigen Kinder) and, as the rising sun was already casting a, wonderful impressionist’s colorful glow in the heavens, I came to the abrupt realization that at any moment they would come…they would be here in our garden…yelling and blowing small metal horns as fiercely as possible, awakening the still slumbering adult world to the news that Herod had ordered the murder of all male children two-years of age and younger….babies…. living in or near Bethlehem.

I sprang out of bed, donning my clothes as quickly as possible, preparing for their inevitable arrival. Opening our porch door just abit, peering into the crisp morning gloom, I could hear their cries and horn blasts from afar, faint at first, but becoming ever so louder. They halted briefly enroute, as they had come upon one of our distant neighbors whose darkened frost bedecked house still had the look of deep sleep about it. The ten children in the group yelled, chanting at full volume their well-rehearsed litany of demands midst the even louder screaming cacophonies of the small metal trumpet.

A brief pause to await an answer, the opening of the door, the greetings of a half-asleep pajama-wearing family member, a response to the demands being made. But, there was nothing…no one in the house stirred. The yells commenced once again, this time even louder. The small horn player found some hidden reserves in his pre-teen lungs and screeched out a bizarre tune, the like of which I imagine one can hear on the way to Hades.

It was at this point that I closed the door and prepared for the arrival of this group. For if they did not, in the end, get a response from that other house, I suspected that their next victim….us….would have to make amends for both homes. What to do? I quickly pulled out the stack of Euro coins I had been saving just for this moment. I also hastily retrieved a box of freshly baked Christmas cookies from the cellar and had them at the ready, for no childhood distemper can survive the offer of such sweet seasonal delicacies. They finally arrived at our house.

What happened next? Well, the same thing that happened last year, and the many wonderful years coming before. Indeed, I last wrote of this event on this very day twelve years ago. If you will permit, let me therefore turn now to that earlier narrative, as it bests describes what has seemingly forever been one of Pinswang’s most cherished traditions. Here, then, is the post that I published on this site those many years ago.

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Ahhh..the Hola Hola Buben have just appeared; underway since before sunrise, eight young  lads (6-9 years old) from Unterpinswang are making their appointed rounds from house to house.  It is the very early morning of 28 December…the day known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents . The boys are blowing with all their might on hunting horns and chanting “Holla, holla, Bierezelte, siaß oder sau’r, raus mit’m Baur! Holla, Holla…” which (in the local dialect) I believe means Greetings, sweet or sour, out with the farmer! There are those who claim it is a call to a mythological female pagan entity whilst others see it as a nonsense rhyme designed to announce the arrival of the young wanderers. The ‘Holla hollas’ appear at each door or gate, making as much racket as possible to so as to awaken the miscreant adults who have the gall to still be asleep. The boys were at one time armed to the teeth with long wooden sticks to which short tree branches were affixed in a broom-like fashion, the purpose of which was to lightly whack us guilty adults, a reminder of the pain inflicted by Herod’s troops. Of course, with an Euro in the Geldbeutl’ (usually a small tin can with a slot in the top…hanging over coats and sweaters by a leather band looped about each child’s neck) for each, the unspoken threat of a beating happily never comes to fruition.

Why are the adults guilty and the kids innocent on this particular day?  The Hola Buben tradition originates with the recognition of the frightful historical event known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Tag der unschuldigen Kinder) when Herod “the Great”, King of Judea, ordered his troops to slaughter all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two; this in an attempt to find and murder the newborn baby Jesus who, Herod believed, posed a threat to the latter’s reign; a potential usurper of Herod’s throne.  This horrific episode is thus remembered  as a feast day that The Church added to the calendar sometime during the 5th century.

It is not only in Pinswang that the Tag der unschuldigen Kinder is recognized; male children throughout Austria make similar rounds to most homes in their villages. For example, in the region of southeastern Austria known as the Steiermark, small groups of young children will approach a house yelling “‘Frisch und G’sund!”…essentially exhorting adult occupants to be “Happy and Healthy” during the coming year. As with their Pinswanger counterparts, they carry the bundled branches and sticks, but invariably never use them as a Euro or Two is plunked into the Geldbeutl’. The style and approach may vary, but the meaning is the same; adults are reminded that such horrendous cruelties against children have existed and continue to this day.

Now, it occurs to me that some from the Barbarian lands outside of Pinswang might not look kindly on this practice of being awakened each blistery cold dark 28 December by blaring horns and bands of weaponized 6 to 9-year olds yelling one out of a warm ensconcing bed….to recall a massacre that occurred more than 2,000 years ago.

Happily, to those here in Pinswang and elsewhere throughout the Tirol, what others might believe in this regard is really of no consequence. Despite the homogenization of an increasingly blind looking glass secular globalist world, these national traditions continue to live and flourish in the hearts and minds of those many who continue with pride to embrace their culture, religion and history.  I have little doubt that the Hola Buben and their many counterparts who bring the joy, wonder and great beauty of the Christmas season to life will still be wandering the snowy paths from village to village long after the less enlightened voices have faded away into the purple Winter night. 

Their task complete, the Hola Buben turn, blow their horns and, cutting across the expansive snow buried neighbors fields, make their ways back to home, a warm breakfast and under the bed covers to count their spoils.

The Hola Hola Buben heading for home after a very long early morning underway in Pinswang. (Photo by the Author)

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