Holidays in Austria and Germany are similar in many ways. Both nations celebrate Christmas, Labor Day, Easter and Pentecost, and gather in the fall for Oktoberfest and All Saints Day. So what does distinguish the Austrians from their northern neighbors?
To answer this question, we should take our mind off the major national holidays and look at local festivals. Austria has preserved a large number of old rural traditions with pagan roots, but the cities do not trail behind either. In fact, it is difficult to measure up to the number of Austrian musical festivals.
In this article we will review the most unusual festivities in Austria, in which you can take part during the winter holidays.
In the night of December 6, Saint Nicholas, accompanied by Krampus – a horned monster from Austrian folklore – will visit homes with children. If they were well-behaved, Santa will leave gifts in shoes, otherwise his antipode will spring into action and punish the naughty. In the meantime, men dressed up in scary costumes will make noise in the streets, trying to scare as many people as possible.
In the night of January 6, dressed up crowds will march the streets of cities and villages to scare away evil spirits and bring prosperity, good harvests and good luck in the New Year. The roots of this fest can be found in South German mythology: on this day, the goddess Percht went into each house to find out how hardworking its inhabitants were in the past year, and to reward or punish them accordingly.
Now let's fast forward from the street to the ball-room, from scary masks and costumes to white dresses and tailcoats. On February 20, 2020, one of the most famous social events in Europe, the history of which began in the 19th century, will take place at the Vienna State Opera. The Viennese Ball is about family jewels, elegant manners and a live orchestra playing waltz. To this day, children from high society debut at the ball and gentlemen kiss ladies' hands.
Not everyone may afford a ticket to the Viennese Ball, a proper attire and a dance instructor, but the festival dedicated to the Birthday of one of the most distinguished Austrian composers is open for everybody. From January 23 to February 2, 2020, head to Salzburg and enjoy concerts of classical music, opera, dancing, movies and more!
Fasching – The Carnival
Once again take any unusual costumes out of the wardrobe! On February 24, 2020, the Austrians will begin to celebrate Fasching with a week-long carnival. During this time, street masquerades are believed to awaken the soil from sleep and attract good spirits that bless crops. Getting carried away by the fest, do not forget to taste Wiener Faschingskrapfen – sweet donuts with jam – and Strauben cookies that are prepared specially for the carnival!