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Christmas in Austria: A Magical Celebration of Tradition and Joy

Discover the enchanting customs, culinary delights, and festive spirit of an Austrian Christmas

Christmas in Austria is a magical time of year, filled with heartwarming traditions, captivating customs, and a festive atmosphere that envelops the entire country. From the bustling Christmas markets to the awe-inspiring midnight Mass, the holiday season in Austria offers a captivating experience for locals and visitors alike. This article will take you on a journey through the enchanting world of an Austrian Christmas, highlighting the unique aspects that make it so special.


Advent Season: A Time of Preparation

The Christmas season in Austria officially begins with the start of Advent, four weeks before Christmas Day. During this time, Austrians prepare for the festive celebrations by decorating their homes, baking delicious treats, and attending Advent concerts. One of the most beloved Advent traditions is the Advent wreath, a circular arrangement of evergreen branches adorned with four candles. Each Sunday of Advent, a new candle is lit, symbolizing the increasing light leading up to Christmas Day.


Christmas Markets: A Feast for the Senses

Austrian Christmas markets, or Christkindlmärkte, are a must-see experience during the holiday season. These charming markets, which can be found in almost every town and city across the country, are filled with festive stalls offering a variety of handcrafted gifts, decorations, and culinary delights. Visitors can enjoy the scent of roasted chestnuts, freshly baked gingerbread cookies, and warming cups of Glühwein, a spiced mulled wine that is a staple of Austrian Christmas celebrations.


St. Nicholas and Krampus: A Unique Christmas Duo

On the evening of December 5th, Austrian children eagerly await the arrival of St. Nicholas, or Nikolaus, who visits homes to reward well-behaved children with small gifts, sweets, and fruit. Accompanying St. Nicholas is his fearsome counterpart, Krampus, a horned creature with a hairy, goat-like appearance. Krampus is responsible for punishing naughty children and serves as a reminder to be well-behaved during the festive season. The tradition of Krampus parades, known as Krampusläufe, has become increasingly popular in recent years, featuring locals dressed in elaborate Krampus costumes, complete with bells and chains, who parade through the streets.


Heiliger Abend: Christmas Eve in Austria

Christmas Eve, or Heiliger Abend, is the most important day of the Christmas season in Austria. Families come together to celebrate with a festive meal, usually featuring carp or roast goose, followed by an array of traditional desserts such as Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake, or Kletzenbrot, a dense fruit bread. After dinner, families gather around the Christmas tree, which is typically decorated in secret by the parents and revealed on Christmas Eve. Gifts are exchanged and children often perform songs or recite poems as part of the celebration.

Many Austrian families also attend a midnight Mass at their local church, known as Christmette, to commemorate the birth of Jesus. The beautiful sounds of choirs singing carols and the enchanting atmosphere of candlelit churches create an unforgettable experience.


Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day: A Time for Family and Reflection

Christmas Day in Austria is a quieter, more contemplative affair than the festive celebrations of Christmas Eve. Families often attend church services in the morning and enjoy a leisurely day together, savoring the warmth and joy of the holiday season.

The day after Christmas, known as St. Stephen’s Day or Boxing Day, is a public holiday in Austria. This day is dedicated to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and is traditionally spent visiting family and friends, as well as attending local events and concerts.



Christmas in Austria is a magical celebration that combines age-old customs, heartwarming traditions, and a festive atmosphere that is difficult to resist. From the enchanting Christmas markets to the unique traditions of St. Nicholas and Krampus, a visit to Austria during the holiday season is sure to create lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage that makes this country so special. Whether you’re wandering through the twinkling lights of a Christkindlmarkt, indulging in delicious festive treats, or joining in the joyful celebrations of Heiliger Abend, experiencing an Austrian Christmas is an unforgettable way to embrace the magic and wonder of the holiday season.

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