Christmas in Austria
The time from late November to the end of the year has a very special meaning in Austria. Visit Austria’s Christmas markets, try some Gluehwein and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.
Austria is a fascinating country to visit at any time of the year. But the weeks from late November to the end of the year hold a special meaning and let you become familiar with some of the most beautiful aspects of the country: deeply-rooted folk traditions come alive in colorful, romantic events.
The period of preparation for the festival honoring the birth of Christ, begins on a Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve. This is the day when in living rooms all over the country advent wreaths, woven from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and four candles, are hung or prominently placed. On each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, one more candle on the wreath is lit at dinnertime, many families pray, read Christmas stories or sing carols together.
Christmas markets are a long-standing and typically Austrian tradition.
In Vienna, for instance, the market is held in the large square in front of City Hall. This market can be traced back to the year 1298. With finest craftsmanship, delicious punch, and lovely decorations Vienna will make your eyes shine like back in your early childhood days 😉
The Christkindl market at the old town hall welcomes you with its imperial charm and and a glorious archway made completely out of gigantic candles. With over 150 stalls it is the largest market located in the direct centre.
In front of the Rathaus, the so-called Christkind, the traditional Christmas gift-bringer around Austria, Germany an Switzerland, will have it’s own little stage to welcome kids and families and to tell famous Christmas tales. All dressed up like a little angel, the Christ-child sits right by the the large Christmas tree, overlooking the sea of lights of the market square.
The stalls present finest goods from all-over Europe. Gingerbread, mulled wine, and roasted almonds, will make your mouth water in no time! For best gift ideas, be sure to be presented with best selections of fine arts and crafts.
Besides the magic of the lovely stalls, you will find a gigantic ice rink of 4,500 square metres! It is one of the largest in the whole city.
The Wintermarkt Prater Wien exhilarates with a mixture of old-school carousels and live concerts. Under the motto ‘the Prater rocks’ this destination is set to celebrate. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday you can enjoy concerts of best bands and choirs to really get you into the festive moods. Visit Coca Cola’s Santa Clause or take a ride on the winter train! The large Ferris wheel, will allow you a stunning view over the whole rest of the city. For the young and for the old, this market will spoil you with the greatest time!
Innsbruck opens its romantic Christmas market in the narrow medieval square at the foot of the Golden Roof. Imagine the lights of a Christmas tree rivalling the glistening tiles of the Golden Roof, the aroma of freshly made “Kiachln” (piping hot doughnuts laced with Sauerkaut), and the sound of traditional Christmas carols. This is Christmas time in Innsbruck.
In Salzburg, the Christmas market takes over the square in front of the Cathedral with its picturesque stalls, while the tree vendors occupy Residenzplatz on the side of the huge Cathedral. However almost every small town has its own Christmas market.
The Christmas tree plays a very important part. Every town sets up its own huge tree on the main square and frequently there will be an extra one, adorned with bread crumbs, for the birds. In families the tree is decorated with gold and silver ornaments or stars made our of straw, sweets and candy wrapped in tinfoil, gilded nuts, etc.
On Christmas Eve shops close at the latest by 6 p.m. and there are no movie or theater performances and no concerts. Most bars, restaurants, night clubs are likewise closed and traffic is almost non-existent.
Around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve (December 24th) the tree is lit for the first time and the whole family gathers to sing Christmas carols. “Silent Night, Holy Night,” written and performed for the first time on December 24th, 1818, by Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber in the Austrian village of Oberndorf, is still the favorite Christmas carol.
Presents are placed under the tree and young children believe that they were brought to them — as a reward for good behavior — by the Christ Child (Christkind). Austrian Christmas tradition has it that it is the Christ Child himself (or rather, an eponymous cherubic figure known as the “Christkind”) who decorates the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and brings the children their Christmas presents, and it is to him that their letters and wish lists are addressed in the weeks before Christmas.