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Following in the footsteps of Silent Night (the famous Christmas song) and exploring the Christmas traditions of beautiful Austria:  What a wonderful Christmas travel destination.

Christmas markets in Germany

Frohe Weihnachten

St Nicholas Day Austria

Christmas Traditions in Austria

  • Baking cookies and pastries are a favorite activity in Austria during Advent.
  • Homes all have Advent wreaths with 4 candles, each of which is being lit every Sunday during Advent.  Advent Calendars are also popular.
  • Barbaratag is celebrated on the 4th of December – a day dedicated to Saint Barbara. People place small twigs from cherry trees or forsythias in their homes and wait to see if the twig blossoms on Christmas Eve, which will then be a sign of good luck. It could (according to some traditions in Austria) mean that a member of your family is going to get married in the next year.
  • Saint Nicholas arrives on the 6th of December (some might say a bit early) and goes from house to house leaving sweet treats for the children.  In the “Silent Night” villages in Upper Austria, Tirol and Salzburger, Saint Nicholas and his scary helper, might knock on the door and ask if the children were naughty or nice.  Then the “nice” children get rewarded with sweet treats.
  • Although he is often accompanied by Krampus, his not-so-cool helper who punishes the naughty children with his rod; the children are not so scared of Krampus.  On the evening of 5 December, people even dress up as Krampus  (Almost like Halloween) and roam the streets in parades making strange noises.  (Well it is scary to me. I will rather be good.)
  • On the 24th of December the Christkind (Christ Child), and not Santa Clause, comes to deliver presents.  Yes, Austrian children do not believe in Santa Clause or Father Christmas.  They believe that the Christ Child or Christkind brings the presents.  Children listen outside to hear a bell ring which is the sign that you can enter the room and get your presents.  Usually, presents are opened on Weihnachten  (Christmas Eve).

Did you know

Traditionally the Advent wreaths used to have three lilac candles and one pink candle. The pink candle marked the third Advent Sunday.

Christmas Market 4
merry christmas

Nativity Scenes

It is tradition to build community nativity scenes, which you will see in every town, and each year from 24 December to 2 February (Candlemas Day), farmers and nativity scene carvers in Salzburger Land open their doors to the public. The tradition of making local nativity scenes of the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ dates back to 1782

Emperor Joseph II forbidding churches to set up their nativity scenes, just encouraged the local skilled craftsmen to build their own. Now it is one of the most beautiful things you’ll see throughout Austria each Christmas.

Christmas Market 1

What to expect in some villages

In some of the Austrian Villages on Christmas Eve, shops already close at around 6 p.m.  (This includes most bars and restaurants as well.) You may still find a few places that will serve coffee, but for most the villages turns almost quiet until around 7 p.m.  Then the Christmas tree is lit for the first time and the families gather to sing “Silent Night” around the Christmas tree.