Austrian Christmas

Christmas is perhaps the most well-known and most widely celebrated holiday in the world. It is easy to get caught up in our own traditions and cultural celebrations, but what does Christmas look like in Europe, specifically Austria? 

In Austria, Christmas is celebrated throughout December, seen in their tradition of Christmas markets all over the country. Austria’s rich culture and history make it a beautiful backdrop for the celebration of Christmas. You’ll find brightly lit trees, intricate garlands, an abundance of Christmas cookies, and piping hot mulled wine. 

You’ll also find that Austria shares many values that we as Americans associate with Christmas: family, friends, food, and drink. But Austria as a whole tends to view Christmas as more of a business (like purchasing gifts)  and time for togetherness than as an avenue of religion. Some Austrians go to a midnight mass on Christmas Eve and some attend church Christmas morning, but the holiday itself is not focused on faith or celebrating the birth of Jesus. Instead of Santa Claus, however, they have Kristkindl (Christ Child) who brings presents to the tree for well-behaved children. 


If you have ever wondered about a “dark side” of Christmas, just ask an Austrian about the history of Krampus. Krampus is supposedly a demon-like creature who appears during Christmastime to scare children into behaving well. Some places in Austria even use reminders of Krampus all year round as a way to get their children to behave and obey (much like the threat of coal in your stocking from Santa in other cultures, I image). Take a look at this informative video on the history of Krampus. And if you want to be scared this Christmas season (I don’t know...), check out this creepy movie that was released in the United States two Christmases ago!

Christmas in Austria is a splendid and beautiful lens through which to examine Austrian culture, especially regarding values. Besides that, who wouldn’t want to spend the wonderful holiday in gorgeous Austria, where you can walk through huge Christmas markets under twinkling lights? Just watch out for Krampus!