Winter Break officially began for the children at 11:20 this morning, with the universal constant of a half-day of school.  Why schools bother at all to hold lessons on this day I do not know; half the student population had already left for places near and far, and the other half was too hopped up on candy canes and lebkuchen to learn anything, anyway. 
The school buses wished everyone “Fröhe Weihnachten” on their banners, and even the usual sullen teenagers had smiles on their faces at the end-of-day pick up. I collected our two elves and we headed out to run a few errands at “The Mall” up here in Döbling, the Q19.
I do not mean to dispel the rosy views of Vienna as an Imperial City with beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets and other old world grandeur, but, well, we have to conduct our daily affairs, and sometimes that happens in a less than quintessential European setting. Apologies if I spoiled things for you.
A light snow was falling as the stream of cars vied for the remaining 37 free parking spaces. 
A fragrant Tannenbaum lot and bright Advent calendar greeted shoppers.
Inside was a very merry shopper, indeed!
The sparkling lights made picking up eggs, milk (of course!) and a few other provisions at the grocery store much nicer.  It is awesome having a grocery store in the mall.
I’ve mentioned that Santa Claus does not bring presents to Austrian children, so it corresponds that the US tradition of “Photos with Santa” is not an Austrian concept, either.  Instead, children can have their photos in a sleigh pulled by a reindeer. And yes, in the background there is even a small Christmas market.  
The Q19 is very small relative to, say, most American malls, and especially to the Tysons Corner behemoth I try to avoid from early November to sometime well after Christmas. There are benches for the humans to rest, and hitching posts for the canines to wait at; and between the stores, the grocery, and the seasonal markets, it’s one-stop shopping, really. (On a totally unrelated celebrity note, the Top Gym on the top floor of the Q19 is where none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out. )
This, naturally, is one of my favorite features of the Q19. 
Our plans to enjoy a Christmas market this evening to kick off our holiday weekend were foiled by the snow-turned-drizzly-mess, but my darling children stepped in to rescue the night. The Cadette Scout peeled garlic to be roasted with the chicken…
…and the Young Eagle Scout was all too happy to create fire to enjoy while listening to holiday music.  The Old Eagle Scout transited home to a cozy fire and a cold Gösser, and the Foxhound snoozed happily on the sofa.  Ah, the holidays.