Are you looking for a guide on all of the important Austrian Christmas Traditions? Then look no further!
When thinking about Christmas in Austria, nothing comes to mind quicker than Christmas markets, snow-covered mountains, and homemade cookies. But not only for these reasons is Austria my favorite place to celebrate Christmas at.
Since my husband did not grow up in Austria like me, I decided to come up with a small Christmas in Austria bucket list – making a collection of all things that make Christmas in Austria so special in the first place.
Since he enjoyed my bucket list items so much last year, I have expanded my list and created a collection of all the memorable moments visitors need to have when spending Christmas or Advent time in Austria.
Dive right in and be prepared to have the Christmas of your life in Austria with all of these amazing Austrian Christmas Traditions
Table of Contents
- 1. Visit Vienna for the Christmas Markets
- 2. See a Christmas Concert in Vienna
- 3. Eat Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)
- 4. Go See the Krampus and the Perchten
- 5. Drink Hot Mulled Wine (Glühwein)
- 6. Take Road Trip to Hidden Christmas Markets
- 7. Fetch the Light of Peace from Your Local Church
- 8. Make your own Adventkranz (Advent Wreath)
- 9. Decorate the Christmas Tree
- 10. Bake Christmas cookies
- 11. Eat Cheese Fondue
- 12. Sing Silent Night and Give Presents
- 13. Get Presents From the Christkind (Christmas Child)
- 14. Open the Advent Calendar and Count Down to Christmas in Austria
- 15. Eat Chestnuts
- Austria Christmas Food
- When Is Austrian Christmas Holiday?
- Summary: Austria Christmas Traditions
- About the Author
- FAQ: Austrian Christmas Traditions
1. Visit Vienna for the Christmas Markets
The Christmas markets in Vienna have a very special place in my heart, and they are probably the most spectacular Christmas markets out there. Winter in Vienna is something you definitely need to experience.
The historically significant buildings of Vienna, such as the Town Hall, are being lit up with thousands of glittering fairy lights.
The snow-covered trees are decorated and hundreds of small chalets set up shop selling everything from handcrafted goods to delicious treats and hot drinks. Make sure to buy something handcrafted by a local artist, for example, an ornament. This is such a sweet souvenir and you have the chance of supporting the craftsman directly.
Vienna has many famous Christmas markets, that are in my opinion, all worth a visit. I definitely suggest heading towards Town Hall Christmas Market and to Schönbrunn Palace
Make sure to also walk by the Belvedere Palace, they have beautiful decorations up every year. Learn more about the Vienna Christmas markets here.
Another lovely place to see Christmas Markets is Salzburg.
2. See a Christmas Concert in Vienna
There are many different spectacular groups, such as the Vienna Orchestra or the Wiener Saengerknaben performing traditional music during Christmas times. They are as much part of Austrian Christmas Traditions as the Christmas Markets. This is one of my favorite Austria Christmas customs.
One of the most famous concerts around Christmas times is the yearly New Year’s Concert at Schönbrunn Palace.
The locations vary, from different imperial castles to spectacular churches. See the selection of Christmas concerts here.
Some of the most famous Christmas Concerts in Austria are:
- Mozart and Strauss at the Golden Hall
- Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in Karlskirche
- Vienna Hofburg Orchestra in the Hofburg Palace
- Classic Ensemble Vienna in St. Peter’s Church
3. Eat Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)
Nothing is more delightful after a long walk in the snow than a hot cup of tea with a piece of traditional Austrian Gingerbread.
Another fun Austrian Christmas tradition we do every year is baking your own gingerbread house. You need some good teamwork because building it (so that it keeps on standing) can be quite a task.
4. Go See the Krampus and the Perchten
Krampus and Perchten are some ancient mythical creatures, that were summoned during Christmas times to banish winter and evil spirits.
Nowadays, there are many presentations of these “scary” creatures, mainly for children and as a spectacle.
Plenty of smaller and bigger towns hold once per year a small festival, presenting Perchten from local groups. So much fun – but some of them do have a whip, so be careful!
The Krampus usually comes together with the holy Nikolaus ( or the so-called Nikolo). He looks a bit like Santa Clause, and he brings gifts to children. The Krampus is his companion that punishes bad children.
This is one of the Austrian Christmas Traditions that is practiced at the beginning of Advent times – one of the most famous event is hosted in Hallstatt before Christmas.
5. Drink Hot Mulled Wine (Glühwein)
Glühwein is a hot spiced red wine and is a traditional drink served in Austria after skiing or at the Christmas markets.
This is one of my favorite things to do before Christmas in Austria. At the Christmas markets, they offer many different variations of the traditional drink- make sure to try as many as possible.
My favorites are definitely the traditional ones, but I also like Schilcher-Glühwein and Glühwein made from rosé wine.
There are also plenty of different versions of punch available, such as berry punch and orange punch. You might end up slightly tipsy after a fun evening at the Christmas market, because these drinks can be quite strong sometimes.
6. Take Road Trip to Hidden Christmas Markets
Austria is renowned for its charming and festive Christmas markets – and not only in Vienna.
You can take a road trip through Austria and visit some of the most charming Christmas markets in the country.
Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, is another city that hosts lovely Christmas markets. The most famous one is the Salzburg Christmas Market, located in the historic Old Town.
Other notable Christmas markets in Austria include the Innsbruck Christmas Market, situated in the heart of the city and surrounded by the stunning Tyrolean Alps.
The Graz Christmas Market in the picturesque old town of Graz is also a must-visit. Especially the small market in the Kasematten (old caves) is beautiful. Graz is located in Styria, Austria – which is a great place to explore.
Of course you should also check out the Christmas markets in Hallstatt, Schloss Ort and Villach.
7. Fetch the Light of Peace from Your Local Church
The light of peace (Friedenslicht) is picked up from Bethlehem every year by a special delegation.
It is then distributed to Churches and other public buildings, such as fire stations.
A special tradition in Austria during Christmas is picking up some of that light with your own candle and bringing it back home on Christmas day.
Many families have a big lantern with the light from the Friedenslicht posted in front of their house.
8. Make your own Adventkranz (Advent Wreath)
The advent wreath is a small, round wreath made out of fir branches and decorated with four candles.
On each Advent Sunday, one candle is being lit together with the family. This is the coziest Christmas tradition in Austria.
You can make your own wreath or buy one at every flower shop. Usually, there are many workshops hosted all over the country to help you make your own wreath.
Traditionally, the candles are red and one of them is pink. But nowadays, modern wreaths have all colors.
9. Decorate the Christmas Tree
Christmas in Austria would not be complete with a fir tree in the middle of the living room, decorated with beautiful ornaments and sweets.
Decorating the tree together with your family on the 24th of December is not only so much fun, but it also really gets you in the mood for the festivities.
Some people already decorate their tree before Christmas Eve – but the Austrian Christmas Tradition is to do it on the 24th itself.
In contrast to other countries, Christmas in Austria is celebrated on the 24th of December in the evening. Many people attend a traditional Christmas Mass in Church after the presents are given.
10. Bake Christmas cookies
Traditional Austrian Christmas cookies are one of my favorite things in that time of the year.
Usually, the baking takes place at the end of November, so you can serve a platter with different cookies to guests and family coming together on Advent Sundays.
11. Eat Cheese Fondue
A super delicious treat that will warm you up on the inside is cheese fondue.
You can buy it at most Christmas markets. Usually, they will drop a huge blab of melted cheese onto bread with toppings of your choice.
It is also a famous dish on the skiing chalets and cottages on the slopes.
12. Sing Silent Night and Give Presents
On Christmas Eve, it is an Austrian Christmas Tradition to sing together the song of Silent Night.
After singing, the children (and grown-ups) are awarded with presents underneath the tree.
13. Get Presents From the Christkind (Christmas Child)
Traditional Austrians do not believe in Santa Clause.
Austrians (or their children at least) believe that the presents are being brought by the Christkind (or my mum pretending to be that).
Children may not see the decorated Christmas tree in the living room until the Christkind was there and all presents were delivered.
Earlier in the month, children write a letter with all their wishes and put it out on the porch.
The Christkind is a small baby Jesus, as an angel.
14. Open the Advent Calendar and Count Down to Christmas in Austria
In the first 24 days of December, Austrian children get a small present every day.
It usually comes in form of a chocolate Advent calendar.
Over the last couple of years, this Austrian Christmas tradition changed. By now, there is a huge choice of Advent calendars, not only for children but also for grown-ups, such as make-up, beer, or lottery calendars.
Buy or make yourself an advent calendar and count down the days until Christkind comes.
This is gonna make the waiting time fly by when you get to open a door with a sweet surprise behind it every day.
15. Eat Chestnuts
Many towns and cities have small chalets around Christmas time, that offer roasted chestnuts.
Go grab a package and take a nice walk while indulging in the small treats.
Austria Christmas Food
Every family has different traditions on what they eat on Christmas Eve. But there are a few favorites that are very common Austrian Christmas foods all over the country.
Here are five traditional Austrian main dishes commonly enjoyed during Christmas:
Wiener Schnitzel: A classic Austrian dish, Wiener Schnitzel consists of breaded and fried veal or pork cutlets. We always love that, not just around Christmas
Roast Goose: Roast goose is a rich and flavorful Christmas centerpiece. It’s typically seasoned with spices and herbs, accompanied by red cabbage and dumplings
Carp: In some Austrian regions, particularly in Eastern Austria, carp is a popular Christmas Eve dish. It’s often fried or baked
Rouladen: These are beef or pork rolls filled with ingredients like bacon, onions, and pickles. They are slow-cooked in a flavorful sauce and served with dumplings
Baked Ham: Baked ham, often glazed with a sweet and savory mixture, is a festive option for Christmas dinners. It pairs well with traditional sides like sauerkraut and potato dishes
When Is Austrian Christmas Holiday?
In Austria, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th and 25th.
December 24th, known as Heiliger Abend (Holy Evening), is the main day of celebration. This is when families come together for a festive meal and exchange gifts.
December 25th, Christmas Day, is a public holiday when many businesses and institutions are closed. Many families typically continue their celebrations.
Additionally, December 26th, known as St. Stephen’s Day (Stephanitag), is also a public holiday. There are still smaller festivities on that day.
Austrian School Holidays are typically from Christmas Eve until January 6th.
Summary: Austria Christmas Traditions
These were my favorite Austrian Christmas Traditions – and I hope you will love them as much as I do.
Opening an Advent Calendar every day, awaiting the Christkind, and visiting beautiful Christmas markets all over the country is what I grew up with.
Spending a traditional Christmas in Austria is a great way to enjoy some holiday cheer! I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
Typically, Christmas celebrations last until the 6th of January, when the wise men come (Heilige Drei Könige).
Looking for more Austria inspiration? Check out my favorite hotels close by the Red Bull Ring.
About the Author
Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.
She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.
FAQ: Austrian Christmas Traditions
Some of the most beloved Christmas traditions in Austria are baking Christmas cookies, lighting a candle on the Advent Wreath, singing Silent Night, and visiting the Christmas Markets in Austria. Other traditions are seeing the New Years Concert and fetching the Light of Peace from Church.
Austrians typically celebrate Christmas at the 24th of December, on Christmas Eve. The Christkind is bringing the presents (instead of Santa Claus) and the people sing silent night. Some people head to the Christmas mass at church after a formal dinner.
The 5 most popular Austrian Christmas Traditions are: Lighting the Advent Wreath, Visiting the Christmas Markets, Baking Christmas Cookies, Seeing the Krampus and getting presents from the Christkind.
No, people in Austria do not celebrate Santa Claus. We celebrate the Christmas Child (or Christkind) instead.
If you want to wish someone happy Christmas in Austria, you have to say “Frohe Weihnachten”oder “Frohes Fest”.
Happy New Year in Austrian is “Frohes Neues Jahr”. But it is more common to say “Guten Rutsch”. That means literally a good slide into the new year.