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Advent in Austria
Austria is a fascinating country to visit any time of the year. The weeks from late November until the end of the year are special though, as they will let you experience the country’s many folk traditions.
Advent is the period of preparation for honouring the birth of Christ. It begins on the Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve, when advent wreaths ('Adventkranz', woven from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and four candles, are placed in prominent positions in people’s homes. Each Sunday one more candle of the wreath is then lit to mark the advent of Christmas
It is also traditional to have an advent calendar featuring 24 little bags or windows that can be opened one by one starting December 1st. The bags contain little presents, while the windows have either images or chocolates. When the last window/bag is opened, Christmas Day will have arrived.
The Pan European Advent and Christmas Markets website has devoted one of its featured locations to the city of Graz, Austria and they present details about four traditional arts and crafts Christmas markets in that city. (http://www.christmas-markets.org/)
Christmas markets are a long-standing and typical tradition in Austria. In Vienna, for example, the market is held in the large square in front of the City Hall and this habit can be traced back to the year 1298.
Innsbruck, on the other hand, has its romantic Christmas market in the narrow medieval square at the foot of the Golden Roof.
While in Salzburg, the Christmas market takes over the square in front of the Cathedral with their picturesque stalls. However, almost every small town in Austria has its own typical Christmas market of its own.
In Graz, the city where I live, the markets occupy the main square, next to the Christmas tree, while the City Hall is taken up as a giant Advent Calendar.
- Christmas in Vienna (2005)
- Vienna Christmas Market - Information & Reviews about Vienna Christmas Markets
This Christmas Market in named Vienna Christmas Markets, is one of many Christmas Markets listed on christmasmarkets.com. Information and reviews available online as well as an online facility to book a hotel near to the Christmas Market.
The Christmas tree plays a very important role and every town sets up its own huge tree on the main square. In homes, the tree is decorated with gold and silver ornaments or stars made out of straw, sweets and candy wrapped in tinfoil, gilded nuts, etc.
On Christmas Eve shops close early and there are no movies, theater performances or concerts. Most bars, restaurants, night clubs and similar establishments are closed and there is almost no traffic on the streets. Around 7 p.m. on December 24th, (Christmas Eve) the tree is lit for the first time and the family gathers to sing Christmas carols.
Presents are placed under the Christmas tree and young children believe that they were brought to them by the Christ Child (Christkind), because of their good behavior and it is to him that letters and wish lists are addressed in the weeks before Christmas.
The damage done by mice on the organ of St. Nikolaus Church in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf near Salzburg, threatened to ruin Christmas Eve mass in the year 1818. As no music was available without the organ accompaniment, Father Josef Mohr, the curate, had to compose a substitute - or otherwise face a silent Christmas. That was the way how ''Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht'' (''Silent Night, Holy Night''), one of the most popular Christmas carols ever written, came to be.
According to legend and some written evidence, early on Christmas Eve 1818, Father Josef Mohr rushed the six stanzas he had given earlier to Franz Xavier Gruber, the local schoolmaster, cantor, and church organist. Mohr hoped that Gruber could compose the melody in time for it to be sung that night. Herr Gruber complied, and during the midnight mass the two men sang this now-famous carol for the first time, accompanied by guitar, with the choir singing the refrain. It is still the favorite Christmas carol. Silent Night Museum Arnsdorf
Baking Christmas cookies
The most popular and traditional Austrian Christmas cookie is the Vanille kipfel, but the funny thing is that I have found the same cookie in my recipe books, but they are called Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican wedding cakes! Baking and cooking frustrations in Austria!
Austrians take their baking at Christmas time very seriously and magazines and newspapers publish recipes at Advent time for people to collect them. Most people don't like using margarine for baking, but only real butter! The end result are the most delicious cookies and people offer a selection of them to their guests when they visit. Guest houses do the same and I am always amazed by the variety they can come up with!
Many times it is difficult to get ingredients, like powder sugar and some kinds of nuts at this time, so I have learned that it is better not to leave the Christmas baking until too late!
Austrians seem to eat those biscuits only at Christmas time and seldom at other times. That differs to what they do in Australia, where they have a great selection of biscuits in every supermarket and they are used to eat them with their tea or coffee all the time.
Edelweiss - John Denver & Julie Andrews
Krampus and Nikolaus to visit Austria
You should not be surprised if you see a terrifying two-metre devil beating young women and a Santa Claus-like figure giving out presents in Austria – it’s just the traditional "Nikolaus" celebration.
In Austria, December 5 and 6 are the Krampus and Nikolaus feast days. Krampus is a mythical devil who accompanies Saint Nicholas during the Christmas season. He is often represented as a terrifying devil carrying a huge stick with which to beat bad children, while Nikolaus is the one whoo gives gifts to good children