Christmas in Austria begins on the first weekend of Advent and is a time of year for quiet reflection and family togetherness. The cities, local towns and many of the houses are festooned with lights and Christmas decorations and the smell of Glühwein is a prominent feature when wandering the streets.
Christmas traditions, regional crafts and delicacies await visitors to the region with advent markets held every week on the run up to Christmas. The marketeers come from all over to offer you their home-baked buscuits and seasonal treats, roasted chestnuts and grilled food, Christmas decorations and home made crafts. There are musical performances, cultural celebrations, story telling, craft demonstrations and workshops.
The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is stunning however visitors do not need to travel far to surround themselves with Christmas cheer. The picturesque advent market in St Michael is held on each of the 4 advent weekends with further markets and Christmas festivals held in different locations throughout the valley.
The Krampus and the Krampuslauf
The two main iconic figures seen at this time of year are St Nicholas and his Krampus. A Krampus is a sinister figure who answers to St Nicholas and punishes naughty children, or so the tale goes. In contrast St Nicholas rewards the good children with a gift from his basket of treats. The tradition dates back to a kindhearted Bishop name Nicholas who, on the nights of December 5th and 6th, makes his was through the streets with his shepherd’s staff, miter and magnificent garments, gifting his treats to the good children.
St Nicholas and his Krampus are frequent visitors to the advent markets and are usually present on the opening weekend for the children to visit and receive their gifts.
The Krampus tradition is over 500 years old and the Kraumpus characters are unique to each town. The individual masks are carved from wood and display distorted and wicked faces with sharp teeth, gnarled noses and huge horns. The costumes are incredible and figure is complete with a shaggy coat of fur, a heavy staff and cowbells strapped to their backs. In recent history the Krampus custom has been revived and is becoming ever more elaborate.
In the Lungau you can enjoy the annual Krampuslauf where hundreds of Krampus from all over Austria come to run through the streets as a fearsome reminder to be good! St Nicholas is there to keep the Krampus restrained and to reward all the good children with presents…
Katschberg Advent Trail
High in the mountains on Katschberg lies a truly magical advent trail. The trail is lit only by candlelight and winds in a circular route for 2km through an undisturbed winter wonderland. Away from everything and deep in the heart of winter, the path winds through the valley at an elevation of 1750m.
For four days each week from the first week of Advent to Christmas Day, enticing stations along the route wait to offer all sorts of seasonal entertainment including a teddy bear hut for younger visitors, carol singing, live music, story telling and a petting zoo.
Free tea stations provide a warming refreshment as you enjoy the enchanting walk around and back to the Pritzhütte and civilisation.
The Katschberg area can be easily reached by car. Once on-site you can either walk to he starting point, catch a shuttle bus or immerse yourself in the magic with a ride in a romantic horse drawn carriage.
New Year Fireworks
Where Christmas is a time for quiet reflection, New Year is a time for loud celebration. Fireworks, both public and private displays light up the whole valley and the volleys of rockets and showers of light can be expected to last well into the following day.
The displays are quite stunning and it is difficult to know where to look. You do not have to travel far to enjoy the event and Haus Bellevue enjoys a most excellent position for viewing the New Year fireworks.
December Snow Sports
The Lungau offers snow-sure skiing during the winter months and the regions lifts generally open in the second week of December each year. A day on the slopes in the fresh mountain air and a meal in one of the many beautiful alpine huts sat, perhaps around a log fire with your family and friends can be a perfect distraction from the Christmas commerce that afflicts so many of us in December and an ideal compliment to the season.
A valley-wide list of Advent Markets, Christmas events and celebrations can be found in the Lungau homepage:
Look for Advent Magic under the heading of „Heritage and Tradition” in the site menu.
The homepage of the Katschberg Advent trail provides you with a full description of the route, what to expect, a map of the trail and an overview of the stations, information on how to get there and the transport options including prices, times and distances.