Working so closely with the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, I’m extremely interested in their culture and traditions. Given the season, I contacted a friend of mine at the Austrian Trade Commission and asked about her traditions.
In Austria, Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the holiday. The tree is decorated on this day, not weeks ahead like it tends to be here and the majority of people attend a religious mass in the afternoon.
Once the families return home, the children eagerly await Chirstkind (baby Jesus,) not Santa Claus, who brings the presents to the children. [There has recently been a lot of debate around the Austrian acceptance of Santa Claus as this concept is believed to have been created by Coca-Cola in the 1950’s, but that’s a story for another day.]
Once the children have been alerted Christkind has come and gone, everyone gathers around a tree adorned with lit red candles and sparkling ornaments. The family usually will then sing a few carols, read from the bible, pray and THEN open their presents. Quite different from the children of the US who wake their parents up at 4am to open their presents (or at least that’s how we did it in my house.)
After all of the presents have been opened, the adults and children gather around the table, share some Austrian Sekt and then they feast! Their meals consists of Foie Gras, a light Italian salad of chopped potatoes, carrots, peas and pickles with mayo, ham & garlic bread dipped in horseradish, Gebackener Karpfen (Fried Carp), turkey, goose and/or fresh fish from the river.
For dessert, weinhachtsbackerei which are Austrian Christmas cookies and they drink Gleuhwine which is Austria’s version of spiced wine. Both of which I made last night to share with the office today. The cookies came out okay, the Gleuhwine, not so much.
Overall, a traditional Austrian Christmas sounds absolutely delightful. Reading the story, I could not help but smile. Special thanks to miss Stephanie Artner for sharing this with me :)