Christmas tree at Weissensee, a small lake near Ehrwald in Tyrol, Austria
O Tannenbaum. 'Smoking nights' in Austria
Behold the lovely Tannenbaum ('fir tree' for you non-German speakers). Here in Tyrol, Austria, Christmas Eve marks the first of three Rauchnächte, or 'smoking nights.' A long-standing Tyrolean tradition, people in this Alpine region burn frankincense and herbs in homes, barns, and stables to avert bad fortune. The custom is then repeated on the other two 'smoking nights,' New Year's Eve and the night before Epiphany.
It's said that everything that happens on these nights is of great significance, including one's dreams. Whatever you dream on smoking nights is thought to be a message from above foretelling what the next year may bring. Pardon us while we drift off to the holiday carol 'O Tannenbaum,' currently playing in our heads. Sweet dreams!