Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad! Wesołych Świqt!
With the holiday season off to a start, countries all over the world have begun their Christmas celebrations. For the last month, each city in Europe has worked effortlessly to build their Christmas Markets and string lights all over the town. In Europe, Thanksgiving is not celebrated. For many Europeans, that weekend is the official start of the Christmas season. Black Friday is also nothing like it is in the United States.
For us in Salzburg, on Thanksgiving we attended the Mozart Dinner Concert where we indulged in a three-course meal with three beautiful intermissions of opera. It was a wonderful way to celebrate together, give thanks, and kick off the Christmas season. Prior to the dinner, we took a mini excursion to the Christmas Markets where we got to taste some non-alcoholic punsch (punch) and marone (roasted chestnuts), along with some delicious Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
The Christmas Markets are truly a magical aspect of the Christmas season. While I image that each Christmas market is unique to the country in which it resides, I can attest that the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is truly a sight to see. One can go into the city center for some Christmas shopping, or go to the markets to drink some glühwein and enjoy some lovely pastries and desserts. If one has time, they can also go ice-skating right in the city center. Not only is the city center filled with lights and magic, but you can also take the bus to Hellbrunn or walk to Mirabellplatz for even more Christmas-filled fun. These are not even all of the wonderful Christmas Markets that consume Salzburg throughout the season. Let’s not forget about the abundance of Christmas trees.
Many businesses in Salzburg have lights strung upon their boutiques and also partake in the holiday cheer. And yes, Starbucks does have their annual Christmas cups, as well as their delicious holiday drink flavors. You can also purchase their annual Starbucks Christmas ornament, amongst other holiday goods. You can even enjoy lovely desserts decorated for the Christmas season. However, nothing beats sitting at a local café and drinking a cappuccino or indulging in a hot chocolate to enjoy the Christmas spirit.
One of the traditions here that is rather interesting and odd at the same time is the “Krampus” figure. Krampus is half goat and half devil. Throughout the Christmas season, Krampus goes around punishing the children that have misbehaved. Thus, St. Nicholas rewards the well-behaved children with presents. Krampus goes around hitting people on its annual “Krampus Runs.” Legend has it that if a woman is hit by Krampus, it is considered good luck. While Krampus is a part of the Austrian European culture, I can certainly say that it is something that most countries are not missing out on.
Advent is a very large factor in an Austrian Christmas holiday. Many people will buy one or more advent calendars leading up to the month of December. They can be anything from chocolate to perfumes or cosmetics, or even gummy bears. The opportunities are endless. Children and adults alike open a new day of their advent beginning December 1. December 1 signifies the official countdown to Christmas. Innsbruck, for example, even has a house decorated as an advent calendar and it will display the days left until Christmas. Innsbruck, of course, is another Christmas Market that I would highly recommend.
On Christmas Eve, millions of children will go to bed with their advent calendars completely opened. They will leave milk and cookies for Santa (St. Nicholas), and sometimes even a treat for the reindeer. Many children will be anxiously waiting for the morning to come. On December 25, children will wake up to see what Santa Clause brought them. Their stockings will be filled and there will be presents under the Christmas tree. December 25th is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ and many families will also attend mass either the night before or that morning in order to worship the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary.
Christmas is a time of joy and happiness. It is the season of giving. The spirit of Christmas brings out the love in so many people. With the semester coming to an end, it will be nice to be back in America to enjoy family and holiday traditions. So for whatever you choose to celebrate — should you celebrate — and whatever your traditions and customs may be, Merry Christmas. I hope that you can find the love, joy, and happiness, that the Christmas season brings!