Christmas in Austria starts quite early. Towards the end of November to the beginning of December, the majority of the towns conduct specialized Christmas markets known as ‘Christkindlmarkt.’
In the above markets, people often sell Christmas-related stuff such as; decorations, gluhwein (a sweet and warm mulled-wine), and foods like gingerbread.
Some cities such as; Salzburg, Vienna, and Innsbruck usually have large markets where people from different parts of the world visit habitually.
The Advent Days
As much as Christmas in Austria involves different customs, they still share lots of similarities with the neighboring, Germany.
Most families on Advent days will decorate the green twigs with ribbons and four candles; as a celebration symbol for the Advent Wreath.
Each of the candles represents the four Advent Sundays. Therefore, the people will light one candle on every Advent Sunday, while singing some Christmas carols.
Significance of the Christmas Tree
Usually, the Christmas tree is very significant in Austria. Its special placement at homes and in town squares, plus its decoration officially happens on Christmas Eve.
Presently, most people use sparklers and electric candles to decorate the trees. It is also the routine of the Austrians to place large Christmas trees at their town squares.
The home Christmas trees contain added decorations of silver and gold ornaments, plus straw-made stars.
Children’s Beliefs Regarding Christmas
Besides, children also have their particular order of events. They enjoy decorating the trees with different types of chocolates, jelly rings, sweets, and small chocolate bottles filled with liquid.
Some children believe that it is ‘Christkind’ who beautifies the Christmas trees. They describe Christkind as a winged-baby with golden hair, symbolizing the newly born Christ.
The children also believe that Christkind is the one that brings Christmas gifts to them on the Eve of Christmas and places them under the special symbolic trees.
On 6th December, children may also receive presents from St. Nicholas.
In Austria, Krampus is a huge-horned monster clothed in rags, who often accompanies Nicholas to punish indiscipline children.
The Climax of Christmas in Austria
Christmas in Austria climaxes from around 4 pm on the eve; referred to as, ‘Heilige Abend.’ It is when people surround the Christmas tree, and start to light it.
Afterward, they begin to sing carols excitedly; with the famous one being, ‘Stille Nacht,’ meaning Silent Night.
This particular carol is a favorite one for the Austrians, existing in the country since 1818.
The national radio station usually plays exclusive Christmas mixes such as, ‘jingle bells’ on the eve. Such music becomes the starting soundtracks for setting in the Christmas mood.
During the eve, people also merry and feast on the main Christmas delicacies.
Since Eve day was set aside as a day of fasting by most Catholics, there was no eating of meat at this particular moment.
Therefore, ‘Gebackener karpfen’ was the major meal course. However, times keep changing.
Presently, the Austrians continue to merry on roast turkey, and roast goose (Weihnachtsgans).
Some of the favorite Christmas desserts enjoyed most on Christmas Eve include:
- Sachertorte (apricot cake)
- Vanillekipferl (horse-shoe shaped almond cookies)
- Weihnachtsbaeckerei (Austrian Christmas cookies)
- Lebkuchen (honey gingerbread)
Besides, some of the rich people would often go skiing on the day of Christmas, or New Year’s Day.
Skiing was also a popular Christmas event for those that live within the mountain regions of Austria.
One of the typical Christmas events in Austria and Germany is the ‘Vierschanzentournee,’ a Ski Jumping- Four Hills Tournament.
The above event begins in Germany, on 29th and 30th December with Oberstdorf, and New Year with Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
It then continues to Austria on 3rd and 4th of January with Innsbruck and 6th January with Bischofshofen.
Annual New Year’s Concert
Yearly, Vienna, (Austria’s capital) usually holds ‘NeuJahrsKonzert;’ a famous world classical music concert that shows on the world’s television.
The performance happens on the morning of the New Year’s date. Key presenters are often Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
They feature the Strauss’ family musicians; that are well-known for their waltz music.
The family group includes Josef and Eduard Strauss, and Johann Strauss I and II. In this event, there is usually a systematic following of events.
Whenever the Strauss introduce their last performance, often ‘The Blue Danube,’ people would interrupt by applauding loudly and cheerfully, shouting ‘Happy New Year Wishes.’
Christmas events in Austria would often extend a few days past the New Year. For instance, 6th January represented the ‘Epiphany.’
During Epiphany, most people place special chalk-signs on their front doors. It was a special reminder of the wise men who visited Jesus during his birth.
The signs usually mean that; ‘the Lord will bless and protect the particular signed house during the entire new year.’
For instance, the symbol for the year 2020 will be 20*C*M*B*20.
Some people depict the initials’ CMB’ to signify the names given to the three wise men, ‘Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar).
The 20 placed at the beginning and the end of the sign indicates the New Year.
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Main Points About Christmas in Austria
- In Austria, starting from late November or early December, most towns will have a Christmas market where Christmas decorations, foods and treats are sold.
- Every town has a large well decorated Christmas tree in their town square.
- At home, trees are decorated with silver, gold, and stars made from straws.
- Children in Austria don’t believe in Santa Claus, they believe in the Christ Kind. He is believed to deliver presents to children all over the world.
- In Austria, Christmas start at around 4.00 PM on Christmas eve when the Christmas tree is lit and people gather around to sing Christmas carol
Christmas in Austria is similar to the rest of Western Europe but they do have a few traditions of their own. ”Silent Night” was actually written here in 1818 and is now their most popular Christmas Carol.
Another Austrian tradition is that ”Christkind”, a golden-haired baby with wings who symbolizes the newborn Christ, brings the presents and put hem under the tree.
Children might also get something on December 6th at St. Nicholas’ Day.
Word Cloud for Christmas in Austria
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in Austria. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.