This year: Tuesday, December 25, 2018
No sooner has November drawn a thick curtain of drizzle and fog across the heavens, and the days become steadily shorter - then some places sink into a deep melancholy. But not Vienna. Here the weeks leading up to Christmas are romantic and idyllic. The city shimmers in a mild glow of candles while the sweet aroma of gingerbread, mulled wine and Christmas baking pervades the air.
The first Advent weekend is the traditional beginning of the Christmas season. Advent (Latin for "arrival, coming") is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. This is the time when in living rooms all over the country, whether in small mountain farms or in elegant city villas, advent wreaths, woven from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and traditionally four candles -three purple and one rose - are hung or prominently placed. The three purple candles in the Advent wreath symbolize hope, peace, and love. These candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The rose candle, which symbolizes joy, is usually lit on the third Sunday. On each of the four Advent Sundays, one more candle on the wreath is lit at dinnertime.
All over the country traditional Christmas markets start. In the afternoon of December 24th, one can hear the "Turmblasen" click here to listen on youtube (playing of melodies on wind-instruments from a tower) in many localities. It is an "invitation" for children to leave the house where they are in the way of everyone busy with Christmas preparations.
For kids Advent is a great test of patience. The time leading up to Christmas Eve passes all too slowly even when each day they are allowed to open one of the 24 windows on their Advent calendar to discover little pictures or gifts. They can hardly wait till Christmas to see if their letters to the Christkind (baby Jesus) have been answered.
The Christmas tree comes to Austrian homes only on Christmas Eve, December 24. While the children are out, parents set up the tree, decorate it and lock the room. After dusk, the ringing of a bell announces that the Christkind has just flown by and instructed the helping angels to leave the presents for the little ones.
Roman Catholics celebrate the day with midnight Mass, which finishes in the singing of "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night"). The atmosphere of holiday reigns all around. It feels like sitting at a cozy fireplace listening to Andersen fairy tales.