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Austrian Christmas Feeling @ Home

December 9, 2020 Visit Europe No Comments

With the first Advent Sunday the countdown to Christmas has officially started in Austria. Usually, Christmas markets open their doors. Usually, locals and visitors alike gaze at the beautiful chandeliers that decorate the streets Vienna. Usually, the scent of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine can be smelled wherever you go. We could go on and on, but we all know that this year is different, and Christmas in Austria is off the cards for Australians.

Who says you and your readers can’t dream of a White Christmas in Austria though? Learn about our Christmas traditions and find some tips and tricks on how to bring a little bit of Austrian Christmas spirit into your home – no snow required!

Bake Christmas cookies at home

Here are our favourite recipes:

Mulled Wine
Hot Spiced Punch
Kokosbusserl (Coconut Kisses)
Lebkuchen Biscuits
Linzer Cookies
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

While baking Christmas cookies and drinking mulled wine we recommend listening to our Austrian Christmas Playlist HERE.

Get an Advent Wreath

When the first Sunday of Advent comes (fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve) around there’s an Advent wreath in nearly every Austrian home. Originally, there were 24 candles placed on each wreath. Nowadays, there are only four left. Every Sunday one more candle will be lit, until the fourth and last Sunday of Advent. Traditionally, the family gets together, listens (or even sings) Christmas carols and eats home baked cookies.

Sing Silent Night

Wherever you are on Christmas Eve you will hear “Silent Night, Holy Night!”. Not many people know that the famous Christmas carol was written and composed in Austria, in a small village just outside of Salzburg. Over 200 years ago on Christmas Eve 1818, in the village of Oberndorf, Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber combined melody and lyrics for the first time to create a carol that would be sung by the entire world. Today “Silent Night” has been translated into more than 300 languages and is a symbol of solidarity, peace and hope. In 2011 “Silent Night” was listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Light the “Light of Peace”

In early December each year, a young Austrian girl or boy travels to Bethlehem to light a special Peace Light at the Church of the Nativity. The Peace Light then travels back to Austria, to be shared with people from all over the world. Guides and Scouts from all over Europe and beyond will take part in a Sharing Ceremony. Participants are invited to light their own candles from the Peace Light, and from there the light will travel to communities all over the world by road, rail or ferry as a symbol of peace and hope. The peace light celebration/ceremony 2020 will take place for everyone on 12.12.2020 via an online livestream from Salzburg.

More Austrian Christmas traditions:

Nativity Scenes

Every year from 24 December to 2 February (Candlemas Day), farmers and nativity scene carvers in SalzburgerLand open their doors to the public, presenting their artistically-made family cribs. It is also tradition to lovingly make and continuously build “community nativity scenes”. In these local nativity scenes, the biblical story of the birth of Christ is embedded in regional surroundings. The tradition of handmade cribs and their private exhibition in the Salzkammergut region originated with a 1782 ordinance by Emperor Joseph II forbidding churches to set up their – often very ornate – nativity scenes.

Who Brings the Presents?

In Austria it’s Santa Claus who brings the presents – it’s the “Christkind” (the Christ Child, Baby Jesus). The presents are not opened on 25 December, but rather on Christmas Eve. And how do you make sure the Christkind gets it right? Kids (as well as adults ) can send their letters to the Christmas Post Office at the Hotel & Restaurant Christkindlwirt in Christkindl, Upper Austria. The Christkindl post office in Steyr opened its doors for the first time on 15th December 1950. At that time the improvised post office counter was housed in the church sacristan’s kitchen, where the dispatch clerk, Johanna Zeilinger, franked around 42,000 items of post with the first special Christkindl stamp. Today, more than 2 million letters and cards are sent from the Christmas Post Office every year with a special stamp. Besides functioning as a regular post office during the Advent time, the Christkindl Christmas post office is also for sends (standardised) replies to the thousands of letters that children around the world send to the Christ Child.

Vienna’s most sparkling Christmas lights

Every year, Vienna wraps itself in an especially festive cloak of lights. The first lights are switched on at the beginning of November. Once all the Christmas illuminations have been installed, over two million LED lights sparkle in 33 of Vienna’s shopping streets. What’s more, around 190km of cable are needed for this. No wonder that the Advent illuminations in Vienna already have cult status and successfully get residents and visitors alike in the mood for Christmas.

Christmas Markets for your reader’s bucket list

From the middle of November until the end of the year, Austria is the place to find romantic Christmas markets. Glistening lights, seasonal treats, and snow-covered roofs make for a magical experience in Austria’s cities and towns which is so different to Australia. The Christmas markets in Vienna truly are an age-old tradition. The forerunners of the present-day events date back to the Middle Ages. Salzburg’s Christmas Market was first mentioned as far back as the 15th century and the Christmas markets in Innsbruck are counted amongst some of the most beautiful and romantic in the entire Alpine region. Even though some of the markets are cancelled this year and Australians are not able to visit them is doesn’t mean they can’t be added to your bucket list.

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