Will shops be open on Good Friday or not, I asked people this week, and they looked at me as if my feet came out of my ears. Of course they will. Pardon me, I’m just not quite up to date on how far secularization has gone in this country, in this town. Especially given that yesterday’s copy of my paper has Thursday AND Friday printed on it, suggesting today being a holiday – wait a moment, it’s a German paper, Germany and Austria, protestantism and catholicism, of course, makes sense.
There are vague childhood memories of everything being closed down on Good Friday in Austria as well, but that was in the countryside not far from the Iron Curtain, and several years ago. Rituals: Church bells that wouldn’t ring during the weeks before Easter, boys running around with noisy devices (“Ratschn”) instead, and five minutes of somber silence on the radio, at 3pm on Good Friday, when Christ allegedly died on the cross. Within five minutes. Do they still do that? Somewhere in my memory there’s also a poem by Christine Nöstlinger which describes the sadness of women’s lives in suburbian Vienna with an image of Maundy Thursday, where everyone is supposed to eat spinach – the image of all these women standing in their identical kitchens, in identical flats and identical houses, preparing identical spinach, spinach smell moving swiftly in and out of open kitchen windows. Austrian writer Ilse Aichinger recalls that cinemas used to be closed on Good Friday, and wonders, like I used to wonder whether shops will be open, whether cinemas are still forbidden to open today. Signs of confusion between city and country, church and (cultural) consumerism.
Friends have left for the countryside, indulging in archaic Easter rituals like burning Easter fires or placing Good Friday eggs on the roof for protection against fire. Whenever they do these things, going “home” for holidays, I feel a little bit like an anthropologist witnessing how her colleagues depart for fieldtrips into alien lands: Easter fires? Good Friday eggs? Christmas cookies? Take out the recording devices, people, and bring me back some food. I’ll paint some more door frames and go to the cinema.