“Home” hides the most interesting things behind the veneer of the usual and well-known; but the exotic lies just beyond the doorstep.
Traveling is so interesting – or so people suppose – because you can discover so many new things. All those exotic cultures, strange traditions, rites and rituals, the meanings of which are hard to fathom – they make for great interest. It’s not them, though, it’s that the changed context makes it easy to have a changed frame of mind, too.
There can be quite enough that is equally as exotic right across the street; we are just not in the frame of mind to see it and puzzle about it when it’s right there in our everyday contexts and nothing we haven’t seen – though not necessarily truly noticed – before.
Case in point: I came back from the summer solstice’s night out ‘adventuring’ to once again find the village’s main street, which I have lived on for pretty much all my life, decorated by tree branches set into the roadside strips of grass and against the houses.
Once again, some people have veritable altars erected in the garages in their houses. Obviously, it’s time for a Catholic religious high feast marked by a procession. It’s an annual occurrence, thus something I’ve seen many times before, and it’s something for the Catholic Christians here, thus nothing I particularly care about.
Having experienced religious/traditional rituals in China, which were so obviously different to a European like me as to be fascinating, however, I look at this ritual here with the eyes of someone to whom it’s a new and exotic practice about which they know just as little.
In fact, I’m not even sure if this was the Feast of Corpus Christi or St. John’s Day, or if the two are or were made the same. (The bank holiday for the former had been on Thursday, the 19th, already, but I always thought it was that which was marked by this procession, the latter was on the day of this procession, the 22nd, conveniently set to be right after the summer solstice…)
Either way, it was interesting to see. Some people were in Sunday’s finest, some in everyday clothes, some prayed, some rather seemed to chat more. Some of the praying and preaching and blessing – as is usual for this village (which we still call a village though it has grown to some 3500 inhabitants; not so small for Austria) – was in German, some in Croatian because of the influence of that minority here…