Advent time is family time! Enjoying the first snow, experiencing nature up close on your skis or skates, tossing your Christmas letter into the fireplace as you pray all your wishes and requests to the “Christkind” (the Christ Child, Baby Jesus) come true, reading stories out loud, and baking biscuits, “Kipferl” (crescent-shaped biscuits) and “Busserl” (small Xmas pastries). The festive season is such a wonderful time!
It could also happen that during Advent, certain folkloristic figures knock on your front door as they roam around the countryside. St. Nicholas, the historically sociable and very friendly figure, and Krampus, his sinister companion, ask which children have been good during the year. Traditionally, well-behaved children are rewarded with sweets, peanuts and tangerines, and in some cases you’ll hear a word of warning given to the naughty ones.
In the Silent Night villages in Upper Austria, Tirol and Salzburger Land, this tradition is celebrated on 6 December. Kids eagerly await the much-feared Krampus Day which falls one day before. Scary figures dressed up in sheepskin and wearing carved masks with goat horns get up to mischief on the village streets.
Salzburg’s Christmas Market Everyone is highly excited, not only children. The first Sunday of Advent rings in the Christmas festive season and “Christkindlmärkte” (Christmas markets) open their doors. Advent is all about recollecting and reflecting, using Alpine celebrations and customs.
Children with the Light of Peace The Light of Peace is brought to Vienna from Bethlehem on 24 December. As the idea behind this new tradition originated in Upper Austria, a local child goes and brings it back to Austria from Israel. Once it has arrived, people from all over the country come to train stations and churches in Vienna to light their candles and spread the flame across the country.
Advent singers in SalzburgerLand With the start of Advent in Upper Austria, carol singers start to venture out bringing joy and blessings to the communities. Singing songs and telling stories, they roam the countryside going from house to house. This represents Josef and Maria on their search for a place to stay.
In Tirol, areas like Pitztal, Ausserfern and villages near Innsbruck and the Alpbachtal Valley are well-known for making nativity cribs. Churches, museums and private crib carvers give insight into the trade and its background history. Carving schools and crib clubs in Tirol even have courses on how to build cribs.
The biblical history of the birth of Christ is embedded in regional scenes. The origins of the tradition of making handmade cribs and their “private” exhibitions in Salzkammergut actually lies in an ordinance made by Joseph II. In 1782 the Emperor issued a court decree to all churches forbidding them to set up cribs, some of which were very ornate. This encouraged skilled craftsmen to build their own cribs and figures and display them at home instead. Later it then led to the making of elaborate “landscape cribs.”