On Wednesday, 16.12.20, the Christmas party for incoming scholarship holders took place online for the first time. Instead of meeting at the OeAD house at Ebendorferstraße 7 to celebrate Christmas together, all our Austrian scholarship holders were informed about the online event by a personal Christmas gift by post. Together with the invitation, a Christmas cookie and a punch recipe were sent out. The recipes should encourage them to prepare a punch on the day of the Christmas party.
When registering for the Christmas party, participants were asked if they would like to contribute to the event. If the party were to take place at the OeAD house, the participants would have the opportunity to give a presentation about their Christmas traditions, sing a song, make and present a Christmas dish. Since these options are of course also possible online, four of the participating scholarship holders decided to give a presentation:
Olga Witmer, a Richard Plaschka scholarship holder in Innsbruck, reported on Christmas in the Netherlands and on Saint Nicholas who eventually became Santa Claus. The most important holiday in December is St. Nicholas on 6 December. Traditionally, children receive their presents on this day. Children in the Netherlands don’t believe in Santa Claus, but Christmas is becoming increasingly important due to globalisation and Americanisation.
Lisa Esti Puji Hartanti, an Ernst Mach ASEA-UNINET scholarship holder in Vienna told about Christmas in Indonesia. About 87% of the Indonesian population are Muslims. Catholic Christians are a minority. However, the foundational philosophical theory of Indonesia, ‘Pancasila’, recognizes the teachings of all five, major world religions for practice. Lisa herself goes to church at Christmas, gives presents to children and invites friends and family to her home. In Austria, she celebrates Christmas with the Indonesian community.
Akihiko Watanabe, another Richard Plaschka scholarship holder in Vienna compared his experiences of Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Japan and the Philippines. In Japan, only 1% of the population are Christians. Nevertheless, Christmas is ‘celebrated’ commercially. Whereas in the Philippines, about 80-90% are Catholic Christians and celebrate Christmas from September to January. Star lanterns are mainly used for decoration. On New Year’s Eve a lot of fireworks can be seen, while it is quiet in Japan. There, the Shinto temples are visited, which are decorated with bamboo at the entrance.
Borys Sulym, a Richard Plaschka scholarship holder in Vienna presented the Christmas traditions in Ukraine. There, Christmas is celebrated by Orthodox Christians on 6 and 7 January. On Christmas Eve, twelve fasting dishes are traditionally served. They reminiscent the twelve apostles of Christ. However, before these may be eaten, Kutja (a sweet dish) is blessed with a prayer by the oldest family member. After the Christmas meal has been eaten, Kutja is provided again. This time for the souls of the deceased family members. Symbolically, a spoon for each member will be provided with the dish.
In between the presentations, Katharina Engel and her daughter Maria sang traditional Christmas carols. The two of them singing together has a long tradition at the Christmas parties and was always very much appreciated by the scholarship holders. It was therefore a real treat that this tradition could also be continued online.
Yana Krastina from Belarus is studying in Vienna on a scholarship from the Scholarship Foundation of the Republic of Austria. She was unfortunately unable to attend the online Christmas party, but sent a video to greet the scholarship holders. This video message was played together with the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, which was played by her on the piano, as a part of the online Christmas celebration.
Following the official part of the Christmas party at the OeAD house, the microphone and the operation of the music system were traditionally handed over to Muhammad Rovidad. He taught Pakistani dances to his fellow scholarship holders during his PhD studies. Unfortunately, this long-standing tradition could not be continued this year, as Mr Rovidad has successfully completed his PhD studies in the framework of the Pakistan scholarship programme and returned to Pakistan.
To round off the online Christmas party, the OeAD staff surprised the scholarship holders with a Christmas quiz. 21 questions were asked to three teams, which had to be answered by the team spokesperson. He or she had to enter the answer via an online survey link. The questions varied in difficulty and not all could be answered. However, there were many insights in the solution round. It turned out that two teams tied for first place. When asked what prize the winners wanted, they all answered, “we would like to spend time together, a meeting organised by the OeAD”.
Since this wish can’t be fulfilled in the near future, the events4scholars team will continue the online events. These are for networking and also provide the opportunity for training.
We thank all contributors to this event wish you a relaxing holiday season. We look forward to a prosperous happy new year, in which personal meetings will be possible again.