Saint Nicholas is accompanied by Krampus, his goat/beast-like helper who punishes nasty children with his rod. Krampus parades have become especially popular on the evening of December 5.
Many towns in Austria (and neighboring countries), especially the alpine villages around Salzburg and Tyrol, celebrate Krampusnacht on December 5th. Dozens of men dress up as Krampus in scary costumes made of sheepskin, wear carved masks with goat horns and roam the town, making a lot of noise and scaring spectators. They parade through the streets brandishing sticks and terrorizing the naughty children.
In Austria It’s not Santa Claus who brings the presents-it’s the “Christkind” or the Baby Jesus. He comes in the form of an angel, with white feathery wings, a halo above His head, and blond curls. Gifts are opened Christmas Eve. And how do you make sure the Christkind gets it right? In some regions in Austria, children toss their Christmas letter into the fireplace to make their Christmas wishes come true. nI others, they put their letters on the window sill, so that the Christkind can collect them.
The Christmas tree plays a very important role in Austria, and every town sets up its very own in the public square. A traditional tree is decorated with ornaments in gold and silver, stars made out of straw, sweets, and candy wrapped in tinfoil, gilded nuts, and decorated gingerbread cookies.
On Christmas Eve, shops close at around 4 p.m. and there are no movie or theatre performances or concerts. Most bars, restaurants, and night clubs are closed, and traffic is almost non-existent. There are, however, some coffeehouses, bars, and restaurants that remain open, especially in Vienna.
Around 7p.m. on Christmas Eve, the tree si lit for the first time and the whole family gathers to sing Christmas carols. And of course, the “Christkind” has already secretly visited, seen by no one, and put the presents under the Christmas tree.