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Advent, Advent

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The time before Christmas, also known as Advent, is a time in which many traditions take place. In honor of this time of year, here are a few traditions we practise in Austria in the days leading up to the 24th of December.

December 4th: Barbarazweig

On this day, some people cut twigs from a cherry tree and put them into water. If, on December 24th, they blossom, it is believed that someone in the family will get married in the following year.

December 5th: Krampus

Similar to the Schmutzli here in Switzerland, Krampus is Saint Nicholas’ companion. Though, considerable more violently gruesome than a Schmutzli, Krampus is believed to grab badly behaved children from their homes and take them away in a sack.

December 6th: Saint Nicholas

Just like in Switzerland, December 6th is Saint Nicholas day. Nothing sketchy here, except Krampus is still part of the team. Children polish their shoes the night before and as they sleep, Saint Nick comes and fills them with tangerines, apples, nuts, gingerbread and nowadays also sweets. A common misconception is that Saint Nicholas wears a santa hat. However, because he was a bishop, he should be depicted with a mitra.

Throughout all of Advent: Christkindlmärkte

One of Austria’s more known Advent traditions are the beautifully atmospheric Christmas markets. Across cities and towns in Austria, these markets are a place where Glühwein is drunk, roasted chestnuts, Kartoffelpuffer (a type of potato flan) with applesauce, roasted potatoes and other traditional foods are eaten and people in stalls sell their goods. It is typical for people to go to these markets after work to meet up with people as you would in a coffee shop or pub. This tradition goes all the way from the end of November until Christmas day.

IMPORTANT NOTE

Unlike other countries, it isn’t Santa who brings children gifts. In Austria it is the “Christkind”. Though due to marketing, Santa is starting to take its place which really is a shame.

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