Christmas is one of the most important religious holidays in Austria. Austrians eagerly await the joyous festival, which gives them an opportunity to get along with family and friends and indulge in merry-making. December 6 is considered to be the beginning of Christmas in Austria, marked by the feast of St Nicholas. Locals hold a belief that St Nicholas, called 'Heiliger Nikolaus', is a saint, who visits children during the Christmas celebrations, along with a devil. He inquires about the good and the bad deeds committed by children throughout the year. Good children are rewarded with apples, nuts, sweets and toys. The devil tries to strike the children who admit their misbehavior, but Santaklausen sends them running before they are harmed.
Christmas Celebrations In Austria
Christmas preparations in Austria begin four weeks before the festival. Homes are decorated with wreaths woven from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and four candles. Austrian children decorate the Christmas trees on the Christmas Eve, using various decorative items like colorful toys, straw stars, small bells, crystal balls, chocolate, sweets, and candles. Celebrators also erect Christmas crib, which exemplifies 'Holy Family in Stable' in Austria. The kids come out of their houses for 'Bescherung', which explains the arrival of Santa Claus (locally referred to as Christikindl) with lovely gifts for children.
In Austria, shops close by 6 pm on the Christmas Eve and there are no movie or theater performances and no concerts. Rather, the Christmas tree is lit for the first time at 7 pm and the entire family gets together to sing Christmas carols. The presents are placed under the Christmas tree for the kids, but are to be unwrapped only after dinner. Christmas Eve is more of a family affair in Austria. People sing Christmas carols, carry manger and show their first child by going door to door, blazing torches inside the houses. This is a common custom observed throughout Austria.
The traditional Christmas dinner that is cooked in the Austrian households includes baked carp. Many traditional delicacies are also cooked and the lavish meal is enjoyed by the entire family. The famous sachertorte and different kinds of chocolates are served as dessert, after the meal. Austrians also have special crescent-shaped cookies, especially cooked during the Christmas time. These cookies are usually served to children and the younger guests. Intimate celebrations take place in Austrian homes and enjoying the meal together is the most important part for the celebrators. 25th December and 26th December are legal holidays in Austria.