Tags: Austrian christmas traditions, christmas decorations, christmas in Austria, christmas traditions, christmas wreaths, nativity scenes
The appearance of Christmas wreaths signifies the start of Advent and heralds in the Christmas season in Austria. Christmas markets, chocolate and apricot cake, caroling, mulled wine, decorating and church services are a sampling of what Christmas means to Austrians. Perhaps the most important tradition of all is that Austrians spend Christmas with their families.
Austrians make Advent wreaths by entwining branches of fir into a circle and decorating the wreath with things such as ribbons, bows, nuts, small clusters of dried red berries, maybe some small toys and other small embellishments. Four candles are placed around or in the wreath after which it is displayed on a table or hung on a stand by a ribbon. A candle is lit each Sunday in December leading to Christmas. Prayers are said as each candle is lit. Christmas wreaths are also hung on front doors.
A long-standing tradition occurs all around Austria on December 6th. This is the day that Saint Nicholas wanders the streets passing out apples and sweet treats to good children. His counterpart, Knecht Rupnecht, beckons any would-be naughty children to feel his switch upon them. Sometimes Knecht Rupnecht gives naughty children lumps of coal or switches that they are then supposed to give their parents so their parents can beat them with it if they are naughty.
Christmas trees (decorated with lights, several garlands in gold and silver, blown glass ornaments, cookies, candies and chocolates) are lit on Christmas Eve and families head off to church services. Many villages have re-enactments of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter on the night that the Christ Child was born. Carolers wander from door to door, stores close and farmers write the initials of the Wise Men on archways and doors to keep the animals healthy in the year to come. Christmas Eve Dinner is served upon returning home from church with carp often being the main course. Sides include braised cabbage, potato balls, mushroom rice and cucumber salad. Dessert is often Sachertorte (chocolate and apricot cake) with whipped cream on the side as well as Lebkuchen (Christmas cookies somewhat like gingerbread). Mulled wine is also an Austrian favorite. On this night Bible stories of the Christ Child are read out loud, presents are exchanged and Silent Night (originally written in Austria in the 1800’s) is sung by families all around the country.
Christmas day is spent relaxing with family and/or visiting with friends. Dinner on this day includes things such as roast goose or Wiener Schnitzel, potato dumplings and red cabbage with perhaps some Kekse, little cakes in shapes like stars or crescents, for dessert. December 26 continues the celebration of the Christmas season in Austria. This day is also spent relaxing with family and visiting with friends.
About the Author: Karen Jebbia is a marketing associate of Acadia Wreath Company which sells fresh Christmas wreaths, christmas centerpieces , advent wreaths and kissing ballsmade with Maine balsam fir and shipped throughout the United States at Christmas time. Visit us at www.acadiawreath.com.