The Advent has begun and brought along many of its beautiful traditions. Here's a look at some of Austria's favorite Advent traditions.
There are many Advent traditions, over the centuries they have continued to develop, but some date back to pre-Christian traditions.
Advent itself was once very different. Before the Christian Church had established its exact duration, between four and six weeks, the Advent period depended on the region. Originally, Advent was similar to Lent. People fasted during the period of November 11th- January 6th. In its present form, the Advent began to take shape in the 7th century.
In Austria, Krampus is a horned, devil like creature that often has horns and shaggy hair like a goat. On the 5th of December, Krampus comes with Saint Nicholas to visit girls and boys. While Saint Nicholas rewards good children, the terrible Krampus punishes naughty children.
The Krampus figure dates back goes back the demons people imagined pre-Christianity. Over the centuries, these ideas evolved into the figure of the Krampus. The oldest sources date back to the late 16th century, when it is believed that Krampus was inducted into the Christian winter celebrations. Previously the Krampus custom was widespread throughout the Habsburg Empire.
Today the tale of Krampus has even made it to North America where Krampus appears as a character in movies, books, etc. in different variations.
On December 5, there are in many cities and towns in Austria that celebrate with Krampus parades. Even if the regional characteristics are very different, there are many similarities to the parades. The men who dress up as Krampuses wear a suit made of goat or sheepskin, and a mask that in earlier times was always carved from wood. They often carry a birch switch, a heavy cowbell and sometimes chains or a basket for taking away naughty kiddos.
For children, these events are a dare. They irritate the Krampuses and try not to be caught by them. Saint Nicholas is often also a feature of the parades, bringing small gifts or candies to the children.
During Advent Christmas markets pop up all over Austria, selling Christmas goodies and gifts. There are always a number of mulled wine booths and yummy snacks. For many people these markets are hangouts where you can spend the evening with friends, buy gifts or enjoy a mulled wine. These markets have a very long tradition that date back to the Middle Ages in some cities.
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