It’s that time of the year when many of us are thinking of how to be better people (in the few moments when we’re not buried in the end of year stress, or buying presents in crowded stores). These tips below are for those wanting to experience a more human Christmas this year.
Here are 3 small things to do this Christmas in Vienna that will require little of you, give a lot to others, and remind you about what this year is all about. Oh, and every single one of them will make you smile. Guaranteed.
Remember that happiness is only real when shared with others
Every year around Christmas, many of us consider how we can be a little bit better at being a human being. You know… how we can help others more and be a little more compassionate. Christmas in a Shoebox is probably the simplest and most fun way to make someone happy this season. Meanwhile, you will be giving a gift to a child who grows up on much less than you probably did.
Christmas in a Shoebox is a project that sees ready made presents (packed in a shoebox) collected and sent to orphanages and under-privileged villages in Romania. This initiative is all about making sure that as many children as possible can experience the joy of unwrapping a present on Christmas Eve.
Year after year, at the initiative of the organiser, Iulia Muntean, and her friends, more and more people get involved and help with everything from preparing gifts to mobilising others to joining in on this unique project. They organise all the logistics and transport involved in getting those precious little presents to the kids in Romania. Can you imagine the smiles your personal little gift will give that little guy, or girl?!
The drill is simple: take an empty shoebox (or any box) and fill it with goodies you think would make a little guy or girl happy eg. crayons, pens or notebooks, little toys, warm clothing, or sweets. There are no rules, here! Then write on the box who it’s best suited for (boy or girl, and the approximate age). Then turn up at Cafe Mendez in the afternoon on the 9th of December, and drop off your shoe box gift.
Also good to know: there will be an after party! Make an evening of it by staying after you drop off your shoebox gift for some of the tasty drinks that are served up by the handsome crowd at Cafe Mendez. The place will be palpable with good vibes and good music.
2. Food for thought
The way to integration is through the stomach
This is one special way to enjoy a ladies’ night with plenty of food and laughter. This may sound like every Saturday night for you, but it won’t be like this one. Trust us. This wonderful initiative Food for Thought is a series of events at which Syrian refugee women sit down for a delicious meal (full of dishes from their home country) with local women and enjoy an evening of delicious food, a fascinating cultural exchange and great (and eye-opening, no doubt) chat over the dinner table that is set in the cosy setting of somebody’s home.
The project (btw, it’s for ladies only) was founded by members of the initiative, ‘Expat and Austrian Aid for Refugees,’ and hopes to allow women who have landed in Vienna after fleeing their worn-torn home country the opportunity to integrate into their new community. And it also looks to make a little extra spending money on the side for the refugees.
Food is a perfect introduction into a new culture, and the act of sharing a meal breaks down cultural and social barriers. It’s the Syrian women who do the cooking and their dishes well surpassed any Middle Eastern restaurant we’ve been to in town. All events take place in local members’ homes to encourage a welcoming and informal atmosphere. They gently enforce a, “Speak only German at the Table,” rule to support the women trying to improve their German.
If you too want to be part of the love and friendship shared by this project, you can sign up to host, or show up as a guest at one of these eclectic dinner parties, learn about new cultures and help some new arrivals in Austria by doing what we all know how to do best – eating well.
The drill is simple: All women are welcome to participate! First step is to get in touch with the organisers. You can host such an evening at your home, but we advise that you sign up to one of the dinners that are already planned, meet the community and get a sense of the setting. Guests can sign up either on the organisation’s Facebook page, or on the Website.
Also good to know: There is a recommended €20 donation at these events to cover the costs of the ingredients and provide some extra pocket money for the Syrian women who do the cooking. The dinner is a delicious all-you-can-eat feast. Alcohol can be consumed, but probably won’t be served during dinner.
3. Shades tours
You’ll be inspired to see the bigger picture on this tour by people struggling on the streets
While most of us are complaining about having to go shopping for presents on the crowded streets, while you’re out there buying that sweater for your Omi, you might actually notice a few people hanging out in the doorways around the city, or asking those passing by for small change. We’re all guilty of walking on by and offering a guilty, ‘sorry,’ and going on our way, but what we’re suggesting this Christmas is that you stop in your tracks, and dedicate some of your time to understanding these people’s lives. It is a truly human experience, and one that will make you feel a buzz – this buzz is the feeling of being human.
These people we walk by everyday are doing it rough, and for some reason have landed on the streets. In Vienna, there’s a powerful tour that offers you an insight into how some of Vienna’s homeless ended up there, and what life on the street is like. The Shades Tours Vienna has been opening people’s eyes for a while now with their tours that are led by people from the streets themselves. The Shades Tours offers up an opportunity to see what it is to be homeless in Vienna, told directly from the perspective of a person who lives on the streets. In a two hour tour, a guide will offer a fascinating insight into their life, and inspire you to open your mind, as they reveal the raw reality of life on the street.
Also good to know: This is a social project run by a lovely crowd which sees a large part of the tour participation costs go to the tour guides.