An Austrian Christmas experience at the St Michael Christkindl Market
Guests staying with us during this special time of the year will experience some of the most fantastic Austrian Christmas traditions that have been lost elsewhere in Austria (find out more about our Christmas holidays).
Like in the UK, Christmas is a major event here in Austria and in just minutes from our Chalets, the village of St Michael im Lungau enjoys a Christmas celebration of one kind or another for each of the four weeks of Advent, which means partying and eating almost the whole of December!
The St Michael Christkindl Advent Market ‘Adventzauber’ – www.adventzauber.com – is a major event for the local community and it is open each advent weekend leading up to Christmas.
There’s nothing quite wandering around the open air stalls with a glass of Glühwein to pick up the perfect authentic Austrian Christmas gifts as well as sample all kinds of local Austrian food and drink produced her in Lungau. As you pass the houses in the village, you’ll see some amazing traditional wreaths holding four candles, which are lit each advent Sunday (like a kind of minimalistic advent calendar!).
While the spirit of Christmas is still very much alive in St Michael but the tradition is very different to what we’re used to here. Whereas in the UK and USA, Santa Claus visits on the night of the 24th/25th December delivering presents, in Austria St Nicholas visits during the first two weeks of December. This is very much a public celebration and usually takes place on the 5th December as a large street party. Here children and their parents gather in the streets of St Michael to watch a formal procession and to meet St Nicholas. The Austrians love dressing up and the streets are packed with lots of music, victuals and entertainment!
When St Nicholas arrives the children explain how good they’ve been and hopefully secure themselves some nice gifts. But…it isn’t just St Nicholas who appears!
A dramatic and somewhat scary mythical creature called Krampus accompanies St Nicholas to find, warn and usually punish the bad children!
In some parts of Austria (including St Michael), young men dress up as the terrifying Krampus and run through the streets scaring anyone who falls in their path. The costumes are terrific – in every sense – and the event is exhilarating. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted (although it’s a fact that the parents are usually more frightened than the children!). See the video below!
As the Christkindlmarkt comes to a close, the Christkindl (literally a sprite-like ‘Christ child’, who in several parts of Europe is the official bearer of gifts) visits people’s homes bringing a small selection of gifts. This takes place on the evening of the 24th December, which is when most families gather to formally celebrate ‘Weihnachten’ – Christmas.
St Michael’s celebrations are dramatically different to what we’re used to in the UK and to the people of Lungau it is very much a community event where friends and fellow villagers spend time with one another.
It’s a lovely time of year so take your pick from our ‘Winter Packages’ or build your own Austrian Christmas Holiday with our help and you’ll soon be having fun skiing, snowboarding or snow biking in the Austrian Alps no matter what your age!
Header image thanks to CK Permon