The story of an Austrian Christmas
Golden-haired babies with wings, sweet mulled wine and carollers in the Alps… welcome to Christmas in Austria!
Christmas in Austria revolves around a number of traditions, the first is on December 6th when Saint Nicholas comes to bring the good children gifts.
On December 24th when the city is frantic with last minute shoppers, the countryside is a refuge for quiet traditions. Farmers chalk the initials of the Three Wise Men on the archway of the stable door to protect the heard from sickness in the coming year and Christmas trees are lit.
In the snow-covered Alps, families descend from their mountain homes to the valley below, illuminating the night with torches held high to light their way in the darkness. Carolers gather in church towers and village squares to guide the people to Christmas services with their melodies. All shops, theatres and concert halls close their doors for this is an evening spent with only with family.
Following church services, families return home for their more intimate celebrating. First Christmas Eve dinner is served, often with ‘Gebackener Karpfen’ (fried carp) as the main course. Dessert may be chocolate and apricot cake called ‘Sachertorte’ and Austrian Christmas cookies called ‘Weihnachtsbaeckerei’.
Afterwards presents are given, but in Austria, there is no Santa Claus. Children are taught that their presents have been brought by the ‘Kristkindl’, a golden-haired baby with wings, who symbolizes the new born Christ.
This is also where the ‘Christkindlmarkt’, or Christmas market gets it’s name. Early in December these Christmas markets open in towns and cities all over Austria, with rows of booths and stalls selling colourful ornaments and decorations, gingerbread, Advent wreaths, candles, small gifts, and even Christmas trees.
Reproduced courtesy of the Austrian National Tourist Office
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