Vom Himmel hoch - Christmas in Vienna!
Christmas is Austria's most important religious and public holiday and a major festive season. Find out how Christmas is celebrated in Austria!
December 24th -
Christmas Eve ('Heiliger
As a rule Christmas is a holiday with
the family. Christmas Eve is mostly celebrated with close
relations only. Preparations for Christmas Eve start during
the afternoon with adorning the Christmas tree ('Christbaum').
Some families use colourful toys, straw stars, small bells
and crystal balls, self-made items and even chocolate, sweets
and fruits. Lit candles finish the design. Some prefer a less
colourful assortment and use crystal balls, silvery or golden
adornments and candles. The Christmas crib ('Krippe'),
a figurative depiction of the Holy Family in the stable where
Christ was born, is erected. Afterwards children are out of
the room, so that the 'Bescherung' can take place:
the 'Christkindl' (Austria's equivalent of Santa Clause)
brings presents and places them below the tree.
When the children return the Christmas tree is lit. Christmas carols are sung and Christmas stories are read. Strictly speaking Christmas Eve is still part of the fasting season with Christmas carp or sausages being the traditional meal. But again, it is not unheard of that Christmas cookies are nibbled on this occasion. Finally, the presents are opened and the evening is spent in happy contemplation of the gifts until it is time for Christmas services ('Christmette'), which take place at midnight.
December 25th - Christmas Day ('Christtag')
Christmas Day is the day for visits
and receptions. All relations in the vicinity come together
and - as the fasting has officially ended - food is of no
little importance. The rest of the day, if any, is spent in
happy contemplation of the presents.
After that, festivities do not really stop till New Year's Eve.