Not the North Pole. The Christmas Museum in Salzburg. Found this in my “Drafts” folder from…Summer 2017, when Tony and I had occasion for an overnight in the Salzkammergut. Seems appropriate to share it now not only because it is seasonal, but because the both of us have been suffering terribly from Austria adopted-homesickness recently and seeing the snaps again makes me smile.

The museum is hidden, if you will, in a cafe; and on a summer day the Salzburg cafe goers were more interested in a shady table and a cool lemonade, so I had the museum nearly to myself. The collection is the work of one Ursula Kloiber; for the better part of 40 years she collected all manner of items related to the Austrian Christmas, having inherited much from her grandmother. The oldest pieces in the collection date from the 1840s, when Christmas, as we know it today, was celebrated for the first time. The “newest” pieces date from just before WWII.

If I recall correctly, this is the oldest Advent Calendar in the collection, though I have misplaced the date.

A later calendar, telling the story of Jesus’ birth.

A simpler Christmas Eve hourly countdown for children to the birth of the baby Jesus. 1300 reads, “Daughters of Zion, rejoice loudly in Jerusalem!”

On a contemporary aside, this Advent calendar was always the first to sell out in our neighborhood. Because what better way to count down to the birth of Jesus than with a cold one?

Ah, Krampus, the main “man” of Central European children’s holiday nightmares. Early in the month this horned half-goat demon roams about punishing children who have misbehaved, typically during “Krampus Parades.”  Terrifying, no?

A vintage recipe for Alpen Butter Bread. My mouth is watering even as I write; I might make a loaf this afternoon!

Until the 18th century the western mountains were known for silver mining. After that it became a center of toy manufacturing. On the left, chocolate molds (notice Kraumpus peeking in?); on the right, an elaborate Nativity pyramid.

“The Christmas Room,” mostly a feature in the homes of the well-to-do, became the gathering place to open gifts on Christmas Eve.

The 20th century brought WWI to the Empire, and Christmas time, featuring unexpected decorations for the scaled down, war time tree and greeting cards decidedly not of good cheer.

Glass ornaments also became more popular across Central Europe. I found the American Thanksgiving Turkey to be an interesting choice for an ornament.

In one of the (several) cases of baubles and decor this piece caught my eye. An 1899 Faberge cigarette case in silver, gold and precious stones.

Another favorite tradition we adopted was that of Bleigießen, the pouring of lead on New Year’s Eve. Small tokens are melted over candle wax and then quickly dropped into cold water. From the resulting “shape” (very much open to interpretation!) one receives their fortune for the year ahead. A point of trivia: Turkish people also perform this activity, perhaps something they took with them after their first failed siege?

And if you’re filled with holiday spirit after leaving this charming museum, simply head over to the “Christmas & Easter” store to collect baubles for both your Christmas and Easter Egg trees!