Christmas is my favourite time of year, and for most of us it revolves heavily around eating and drinking copious amounts (but that’s why we have New Years resolutions right??). Christmas in Austria is something a lot of people dream about experiencing and with this on our doorstep and the snow capped mountains making a picture perfect backdrop, even the biggest Grinch’s out there cannot deny how beautiful it is here during the season to be jolly.
So what are the things you should be doing this year to really experience an Austrian Christmas:
- obviously go to a Christmas Market. You can’t step out of your house this time of year without stumbling upon one. So wrap up warm and soak up the Christmassy atmosphere. My personal favourite from last year was in Oberstadt in Bregenz, as it is only small and the setting is so beautiful in the old town and the atmosphere was fantastic.
- drink Glühwein. When you get to the markets, warm your hands and your insides with a Glühwein. Be warned, this can be a lethal drink that can take down even the most hardened of drinkers. What makes it worse is that because you want to drink it while it is still hot, it doesn’t last very long. Non alcoholic warm fruit punch is also normally available.
- enjoy roasted chestnuts. This is something I had never actually tried before moving here, but now I know why they sing about it in the songs. Most markets have a stall selling bags of roasted chestnuts, and once you have struggled with breaking off the shell without taking off your gloves, it is all worth it.
- compliment someone on their Christmas Tree in exchange for schnapps. This has been the cause of many a hangover for many people I know, so proceed with caution.
- enjoy Christmas cookies. This was a new Christmas tradition for me. People spend huge amounts of time baking a whole array of tiny cookies to be enjoyed over the festive period. These are normally cookies such as cinnamon stars, vanillegipfel, and kapuziner (nut, caramel and chocolate). So if you’re not a huge fan of baking yourself, befriend someone who is and make sure they are aware of this tradition.
- eat gingerbread (lebkuchen). I love gingerbread and it is always on my Christmas baking list, but Ive never known it to be so readily available to buy and in all different flavours and shapes. It makes a great present or simply just a treat for yourself.
- celebrate Christmas twice, first on the 24th like the Austrians do and then again on the 25th. Double the presents, and double the food :).
- if you’re looking for something a little bit different, then on Christmas Day (25th December), go and watch the Vorarlberg Lifesavers dress up, jump in the freezing cold Bodensee and submerge a Christmas tree. This local tradition is a free event and attracts people from across the state. With both beer and Glühwein readily available this is sure to be an event you won’t forget.