The Christkind's Hard-Working Helpers
The first Mountain Christmas was held in Maria Kirchental ten years ago. Since then the special atmosphere of this place has magically attracted visitors. We take a look behind the scenes of this charming Advent market - to those people who make sure that it is an unforgettable experience every year.
The stallholders are also selected again at the beginning of the year. She places a lot of importance on the fact that they should offer home-made, regional products. Products such as candyfloss are out of the question for her – you will look for them in vain in Kirchental. The organizer is proud that the market is a certified “Green Event” which means that the relevant environmental and sustainable criteria are fulfilled. The most intense phase of the preparations for Elisabeth is in autumn. Now it's all about details such as marketing, the children's programme, the taxi shuttle and general organizational issues. She works hand-in-hand with her colleague Peter who is responsible for the manual tasks.
Let there be light
Things begin to get serious for Peter and his team from the middle of November. First of all there is a particularly honourable task for the men – they most go into the forest and find the perfect Christmas trees. In coordination with the forester, the most beautiful fir trees are chosen, felled and pruned. In the forecourt of the pilgrimage church they receive a new, glittering life. Every year Peter looks forward to the moment when the fairy lights are attached and the Christmas trees shine in all their glory. This is the moment when he feels the reflective atmosphere of Advent. Next, the traditional stalls and the specially-made wooden huts are set up. Even though the team has certain routines, it is always a challenge until everything is in its place and well-anchored. On the first day of the Mountain Christmas all of the stallholders arrive in the morning and there is immediately a lot of activity in front of the cathedral. It will be hectic until everything is done and the excitement is tangible. The cables are checked for the last time and the installation of the huts checked. Are there any fir branches left for decoration; is the technology working for the concerts and where are the wings for the angel?
An angel inspires the little ones
Yes that's right, now one of the main characters of the Mountain Christmas comes into play. Nicole's duties only begin today. The student slips into the role of an angel and takes over the care of the young visitors. With her long hair and white robe, some children think she is the Christkind, but of course that cannot be because he is invisible. That is why they agreed on the job title angel. “The children literally beam when they see me. Some of them want to hug me and ask if they can stroke my wings – it's so touching,” explains the trainee teacher. “I help them to write letters to the Christkind. This is the best job I could ever imagine”, she says enthusiastically. They also do crafts together and she tells the children stories.
A photograph with this magical character is especially sought-after by the little ones and she willingly poses for souvenir pictures. Her little followers are generally very well-behaved and awestruck but there was a little embarrassment last year Nicole reports, smiling, “A boy of primary school age stared at me and said, you don't exist! At first I did not know what I should say as I had never expected anything like that. Then I answered him and said that everyone can believe what they want to believe.” But even dream jobs have their downsides – you have to stand in the cold all day. Nicole knows what helps. Under her angel's robe she wears ski trousers and an anorak and last year she also tried out heated shoes. “That really helped. You learn something new every year”, beams the student.
As the opening of the Mountain Christmas nears, the atmosphere calms down and peace returns to the arena in front of the church. The logs in the fire bowls are lit, they crackle and exude homeliness. The people there have a good snack to give them energy for the day because in the coming hours hardly anyone will have time to eat. Lots of people work together to ensure the Mountain Christmas in the Salzburger Saalachtal delights people every year and gets them in the mood for Christmas. While Jasmin and the other stallholders take care of the needs of the visitors and Nicole makes children's eyes sparkle, Elisabeth and Peter are the good souls of the market who ensure that the fires burn, there are enough warm blankets ready and that the place remains clean. And there is also time for a cosy “Hoagascht” with the visitors. For the participants, these days are more or less contemplative but they are all delighted to contribute to the success of the Mountain Christmas.