The Christmas tree plays a very important part. Every
town sets up its own huge tree on the main square and
frequently there will be an extra one, adorned with
bread crumbs, for the birds. In families the tree is
decorated with gold and silver ornaments or stars made
our of straw, sweets and candy wrapped in tinfoil,
gilded nuts, etc.
On Christmas Eve shops
close at the latest by 6 p.m. and there are no movie
or theater performances and
no concerts. Most bars, restaurants, night clubs are
likewise closed and traffic is almost non-existent.
Around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve (December 24th) the
tree is lit for the first time and the whole family
gathers to sing Christmas carols. “Silent Night,
Holy Night,” written and performed for the first
time on December 24th, 1818, by Josef Mohr and Franz
Gruber in the Austrian village of Oberndorf, is still
the favorite Christmas carol.
Presents are placed under
the tree and young children believe that they were
brought to them -- as a reward
for good behavior -- by the Christ Child (Christkind).
Austrian Christmas tradition has it that it is the
Christ Child himself (or rather, an eponymous cherubic
figure known as the “Christkind”) who decorates
the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and brings the
children their Christmas presents, and it is to him
that their letters and wish lists are addressed in
the weeks before Christmas.