Today after class we had a party and our teacher Daniela explained the Austrian traditions around the Christmas holiday. Advent comes the beginning of December and lasts until December 24th. To mark the passing of Advent there is a wreath with 4 candles. Each Sunday in December you light one more candle, so on the first Sunday you light only one, the second Sunday two, and so on. Children (and perhaps grown-ups too) also mark the passing of the days with calendars that have a door to open each day in December behind which is a treat of some type.
Santa Claus doesn’t come to Austria and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not here either, but Nicholas does on December 6th and brings candy to children. You better be good though because the night before Nicholas comes, Krampus comes and kidnaps and beats with sticks children that have been bad!
On December 24 in the evening is Christkind. It is not until then that the Christmas tree is brought in and decorated. It is also the time when presents are brought. A bell is rung to signal to the children that they can come in and receive their presents. Afterwards there is a small dinner of fish soup.
On December 25, 26,27…Lots of eating and drinking and playing and being with family takes place.
The rest of us shared some of our holiday traditions as well. In the Philippines they eat long foods (like spaghetti pasta) to give long life to those eating. In Spain gifts are not exchanged until January 6th, which is Epiphany (the coming of the Magi).
We held out longer than we normally would in America to put up our Christmas tree (mostly because they just opened up the markets for them last weekend), but we didn’t wait until Christmas Eve. I always enjoy putting the ornaments on. They are filled with memories of friends and family. Each of us, including my husband and me have our baby’s first Christmas ornament. There is one from our first year of marriage and one my sister-in-law gave me when I was expecting our first babies. There are ornaments my children have made. We added a new one for this year: Our first Christmas in Vienna!