Category Archives: Christmas

The Vienna party starts anew


There is always a buzz in Vienna, always things going on. However, to me, the period from the end of September through to mid-November is as close as the city ever gets to taking a pause.

Then as you start to wrap up, with autumn turning to winter, small huts start to be erected across the city, street decorations are installed and the purveyors of holiday trinkets bring forth their wares. All over Vienna the Christmas markets beginning to open, signalling the start of another year of partying in the City.

Walking through the Rathausplatz the other evening, between the stalls still being erected and those being prepared for the opening of the market on the 17th November,  I took a look at the Christmas tree that takes pride of place in front of the City Hall. Not yet decorated, this tree has got a bit of a history having already been to the Vatican where it was rejected – more on this story here in the Austrian Times.

The Christmas markets provide the City with an enhanced sense of the Christmas festivities. They also reflect the Austrian habit of socialising outside all year round. No matter how cold it gets (& even better if it snows) we will all be standing around with our Glühwien and food chatting away to friends and enjoying the party which will carry on through New Year celebrations, winter activities, spring festivals and the gorgeous summer months by the river and in the vineyards.

If you are paying a visit to Vienna here’s a link to more details on the Christmas Markets

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Dual culture brings the best of everything


I was greeted this morning (24th Dec) by my nine year old daughter with the words ‘I can’t wait for Christmas this evening’. She was refereeing to the arrival of Christkindl here in Austria with her first group of presents.

After Christkindl drops by and leave the presents, the wider family will gather together (as many Austrian families do on the 24th Dec) for an evening meal, a little wine or beer, as well as the exchange and opening of presents. Traditionally, such gatherings leave people free to attend church and spend time with the immediate family on Christmas day. Although church membership (in Catholic Austria you are a paid up member) is on the decline, many people do attend mass on the 25th.

Tomorrow I will be awoken by my daughter with the cry of ‘it’s Christmas!’ and in our household ‘English Christmas’ will begin. Father Christmas will have swung by on his way back from Britain and left the second group of presents under the Christmas tree. The morning will then be a mix of playing and frantic cooking to prepare for the arrival of our guests. As many of our friends have already had their ‘family Christmas’ the night before it means that (unlike the rare occasions when we are in England at this time of year) people are free to join us on Christmas day. So for us the tradition has been established that we prepare an ‘English Christmas dinner’ which we share with friends on Christmas afternoon followed by any evening of merriment as the children play with the new toys and adults chat over a glass of wine.

For us maintaining, sharing and blending the family’s two cultures enriches life all year round.

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Blending old traditions and creating a few new ones along the way – Christmas


Ok now try to keep up. No really you need to stay focused if we are going to get through all of this without tears, diplomatic incidents or a nervous breakdown.

To recap the story so far, earlier in the month we had:

  • the visit from Krampus (bad children and scaring the hell out of the kids tradition)
  • also a visit from Saint Nicolo  (good children and encouraging the kids to eat lots more sweats tradition)
  • a trip to Zwettl to see the devils and demons parade through the streets (more scaring the hell out of the kids tradition)
  • lots of trip Christmas markets (playing, skating and sweats for the kids, whilst for the adults drinking Glühwien and talking about what Christmas was like when you were young  traditions) (Note: Bad news the Christmas markets close down after tonight, the good news they will be replaced a few days by New Year markets)

Now our Christmas tree went up last night (23rd) and so it’s important to remember that when H’s little Austrian friends come round, this morning, we have to explain that Christkindl brought the English family our tree (but not yet the presents) early.

This morning it’s important to get up early to give yourself time to remember all the things you’ve forgotten as the shops will all be closed by midday.

This afternoon I need to remember to leave the more protestant half of my Anglicanism at home as we go with friends to a Catholic church for the children’s Christmas service.

Like most families in this part of the world, we will tonight sit down with our wider family for the Christmas meal. This will be followed by the traditional gathering around the Christmas tree (delivered today along with the presents by Christkindl) and presents will be opened along with suitable quantities for wine.

Note to self: don’t forget to let Christkindl know which presents from the list are to be delivered today and which are to be left for the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas).

With our traditional Austrian Christmas safely navigated, it’ll be a few hours sleep before H’s wakes us up to start the English Christmas.  Father Christmas will have left his share of the presents under the tree and in the stocking emblazoned with the name Helena. Grandparents will be summoned to join us for the present opening ceremony and the English Christmas will be well under way.

One recent tradition in our family is to invite a few friends to join us for our ‘traditional’ English Christmas meal and to stay for the afternoon/evening to drink, talk and play. R likes to prepare this meal and out does herself each year. I, as with all such ‘English themed’ social events, try to stop R from turning the house into something resembling an English pub. This has become a greater challenge over recent years as she now has far too many ideas inspired from her time sitting, drinking and eating in a certain establishment in Lincolnshire.

One ‘English’ tradition we don’t have here of course is the gathering around the TV at 3pm to listen to the Queen.

The next forty-eight hours are always an enjoyable time of the year but in a few days we will head to the mountains to recover (another tradition I very much approve of).

Note to English readers: If you don’t want to spend all your time in the company of Austrians being told that you are simply an extension of the USA/Coke Cola Corporation when it comes to Christmas then it’s useful to read up on yours and their traditions. As ever, if you want to get a quick summary then Wikipedia is a useful starting point   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christkind

Merry Christmas for today and tomorrow 🙂

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Filed under Christmas, Vienna Life