Posted by: Nazausgraben | December 24, 2017

Es ist Advent

The Advent and Christmas seasons here are, at least to me, the loveliest of all the year’s celebrations. The weeks leading up to Christmas day are all so quiet…the overall pace of life noticeably slows somewhat. The gray cold cloud bedecked days with the occasional flurry segues into a chilled darkness that descends so early. Yet, even when the flurries turn into wind-driven blizzards, all remains quiet. You can hear the snow fall, faintly but distinct as it becomes visible for but a moment in the street lamps and lights of passing vehicles. This is the best time of day to don multiple layers and head out, to explore when but a few intrepid others are about.

A walk to the village center (a small plot with an ancient stone fountain from which the cows can drink and rest in the Summer grasses in the shade of a mighty elm) reveals the lights lining the saddle top roof of the hut (the Glühweinstandl’) where hot spiced wine, punch and other drinkables and edible delicacies of the season are purveyed. Manned by two young members of the (appropriately) Young Farmers Association, the Glühweinstandl’ has become one of those timeless icons here in Pinswang that simply must be at this time each year. It is as much a part of the Christmas season here as is the lovely Nativity scene in Tirolean style displayed on a side altar within the St. Ulrich’s Church, the beloved concert of seasonal music performed by local musicians every third Advent Sunday evening, the so-called ‘Wald Advent’ where the doors of some storage barns (located at the edge of a forest that divides Lower and Upper Pinswang) are opened and children from the village play Christmas carols whilst a host of villagers gather to enjoy the ever so tasty hot Glühwein (red or white depending on the grapes you prefer), fresh pork sausages, roasted chestnuts and Christmas cookies…all outside in the frosted breath chill of a December Winter’s night. Thus the stoic few gather at the Glühweinstandl’ discuss the few minor local scandals, laugh at jokes (which, when told in machinegun paced dialect, sound to me more like an unintelligible mix of Finnish and Rätoromanisch and therefore impossible to  understand) and shake heads in dismay over the absurd socio-politico-cultural madnesses that dominate the world outside of our end of the valley. The moments imbibing the hot spicy drink come to an end, and it is time to move on, for staying any longer might subject one to an offer of yet another cup of the steaming elixir. The warmth it provides on such a brisk night is welcome, but the side effects of its substance are best avoided by those like myself not accustomed to partaking in the manner of those for whom such drinks are but sweetly flavored water.

Our village church of St. Ulrich is the next stop. Located on the highest hill in Pinswang, one struggles to remain upright in the decidedly minus temperatures and icy path underfoot. Having attained the sacred heights before the church entrance, one can turn to the left and see the lovely Christmas tree alight in the surrounding pitch. To the right is the village Krippe; the nativity scene with its large hand carved wooden figures of the infant Jesus Mary and  Joseph. The scene is housed in a large wooden hut surrounded underfoot by seasonal greens. Turning to the right, we enter into the darkness of St. Ulrichs with the only sources of light being those of small votive candles and of the street lamps illuminating the exterior of the church; the latter causing vast arch- and cross-shaped shadows of the tall glass window frames to be seen stretching across the church walls and fading into the gloom. To the right is one of the two side altars. Atop the flat marble table-like surface is a very large and highly detailed Nativity scene. It was built a few years ago by one of our neighbors here in Pinswang. The centerpiece is a house constructed in Tirolean style. It is lit from within and next to the house entrance is a tiny lamp, also lit by an even tinier bulb. The house is surrounded by fields, a pond, hills and trees (all in miniature, of course). The background is a massive painting of the mountain range surrounding our valley. Hand carved wooden sheep, peasants and travelers are all depicted, as are the innkeeper, Mary and Joseph standing at the front entrance of the remarkably detailed house. Clearly the innkeeper is telling the holy pair that there is no room within. On the third Advent Sunday, one can return the Nativity scene and see that the façade of the house has been removed to reveal a lovely (and again, highly detailed) interior. There one now sees Mary and Joseph kneeling by an empty food trough that will soon become a cradle. It is at Midnight Mass that the figure of the baby Jesus can be seen in the cradle. No matter how often I visit the side altar to see this wondrous work, I am always taken by the time, effort, devotion and love put into its creation.

Leaving St. Ulrich’s, one can peer down the hill into the embracing night, seeing the even darker silhouettes of homes, farmhouses and the distant village inn, windows alight with candles and Christmas decorations. A walk down the hill from the church and a quick left turn quickly leads one to the ancient Via Claudia Augustus, the ancient Roman Road; merely a dirt, gravel and grass path that for centuries has been trodden by villagers, pilgrims, sellers of goods and soldiers headed into war. Walking this path this cold night, crunching into the snow, one passes the Earschbach, a biotope pond that is all that remains of the vast and rather nasty wetlands that covered this entire area during the times when the Celts and Romans called this valley home. From here, one can look back across the farmer’s fields toward the village center, the Glühweinstandl’, the St. Ulrich’s Church, the homes where families will soon be exchanging gifts, singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night) next to their Christmas trees and small Nativity scenes and then heading to St. Ulrich’s for Midnight Mass. With all of this in mind on this most holy night, our thoughts turn to family and friends, some nearby and others so far away.

Dear reader, Susi and I send you and your family all of our heartfelt wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a safe, happy and healthy New Year to come!


  1. Andy and Susi, Wonderful to have finally found you!! Sincerest best wishes from Don and Laraine in Colorado! Please contact us when you get a chance! Don Parcher

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