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Discover Austria - Discover Oberndorf

Following in the footsteps of Silent Night (the famous Christmas song) and exploring the Christmas traditions of beautiful Austria:  What a wonderful Christmas travel destination.

Christmas markets in Germany

Frohe Weihnachten

St Nicholas Day Austria

Christmas Traditions in Austria

  • Baking cookies and pastries are a favorite activity in Austria during Advent.
  • Homes all have Advent wreaths with 4 candles, each of which is being lit every Sunday during Advent.  Advent Calendars are also popular.
  • Barbaratag is celebrated on the 4th of December – a day dedicated to Saint Barbara. People place small twigs from cherry trees or forsythias in their homes and wait to see if the twig blossoms on Christmas Eve, which will then be a sign of good luck. It could (according to some traditions in Austria) mean that a member of your family is going to get married in the next year.
  • Saint Nicholas arrives on the 6th of December (some might say a bit early) and goes from house to house leaving sweet treats for the children.  In the “Silent Night” villages in Upper Austria, Tirol and Salzburger, Saint Nicholas and his scary helper, might knock on the door and ask if the children were naughty or nice.  Then the “nice” children get rewarded with sweet treats.
  • Although he is often accompanied by Krampus, his not-so-cool helper who punishes the naughty children with his rod; the children are not so scared of Krampus.  On the evening of 5 December, people even dress up as Krampus  (Almost like Halloween) and roam the streets in parades making strange noises.  (Well it is scary to me. I will rather be good.)
  • On the 24th of December the Christkind (Christ Child), and not Santa Clause, comes to deliver presents.  Yes, Austrian children do not believe in Santa Clause or Father Christmas.  They believe that the Christ Child or Christkind brings the presents.  Children listen outside to hear a bell ring which is the sign that you can enter the room and get your presents.  Usually, presents are opened on Weihnachten  (Christmas Eve).

Did you know

Traditionally the Advent wreaths used to have three lilac candles and one pink candle. The pink candle marked the third Advent Sunday.

Christmas Market 4
merry christmas

Nativity Scenes

It is tradition to build community nativity scenes, which you will see in every town, and each year from 24 December to 2 February (Candlemas Day), farmers and nativity scene carvers in Salzburger Land open their doors to the public. The tradition of making local nativity scenes of the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ dates back to 1782

Emperor Joseph II forbidding churches to set up their nativity scenes, just encouraged the local skilled craftsmen to build their own. Now it is one of the most beautiful things you’ll see throughout Austria each Christmas.

Christmas Market 1

What to expect in some villages

In some of the Austrian Villages on Christmas Eve, shops already close at around 6 p.m.  (This includes most bars and restaurants as well.) You may still find a few places that will serve coffee, but for most the villages turns almost quiet until around 7 p.m.  Then the Christmas tree is lit for the first time and the families gather to sing “Silent Night” around the Christmas tree.

Travel Trivia

Travel Trivia:  For 100% original, authentic, amazingly tasting, Austrian Sachertorte, visit The Hotel Sacher in Vienna The hotel produces a huge amount of cake each year, which can also be purchased online.  A Sachertorte gift from the hotel is not just a gift, it is spectacular and beautifully packed with golden corners, the hotel’s seal and logo, in a box and all wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper:  Very special.

Best Christmas Markets in Austria

Christmas Markets in Austria

Furthermore, there is the Austrian Christmas Markets which is well known to be some of the best around the world.  The place where you can feast on gingerbread, Sachertorte (a marvelous Chocolate Cake), and Vanillekipferl (crescent-shaped cookies made with nuts and dusted with vanilla sugar):  Oh and don’t forget the Glühwein served hot on cold snowy days. 

From the middle of November to the end of December you are sure to find Christmas Markets almost around each corner.  If I had to list all die Christmas Markets in Austria, I would need a few days and a lot of writing pads.

Here is a list of just a few you have to see:

Graz – The capital of Styria

  • The Advent Market in front of the City Hall, Hauptplatz with the giant illuminated Advent calendar against the town hall facade.
  • The traditional old town market at Franciscan church
  • The market on Glockenspielplatz Square

Innsbruck and Tirol

  • In front of the Golden Roof, in Innsbruck’s historic city center
  • The family Christmas Market at Marktplatz (Market Square)
  • Almost every little village in Tirol has a beautiful Christmas market or at least is decorated for Christmas.


  • On Cathedral and Residenz Square, in Salzburg’s historic city center.


  • The market at Neuer Platz in Klagenfurt is the biggest one in Carinthia
Obendorf Austria


It is a known fact that the most famous Christmas Carol of all time “Silent Night” comes from Austria.

The song Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.  When visiting Oberndorf bei Salzburg in Austria you will find the Silent Night Chapel  (Stille Nacht Kapelle), a monument to the song and its composers.  This chapel was built on the site of the former St Nicolas’ Church where the famous Christmas carol was first performed on 24 December 1818.  The song was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

Oberndorf is located around 20 kilometers north of the city of Salzburg and if you want to experience the Stille Nacht of Christmas, you must visit Oberndorf.

Do stop at the Stille Nacht Chapel where, since 1953, the Silent Night Commemoration has been taking place every year on Christmas Eve at 17:00.  People from all over the world arrive to sing “Silent Night” at this is a truly magical event.

Silent Night Song for Christmas

The Silent Night Post Office

Did you know that each year the Silent Night Post Office opens its doors in Oberndorf bei Salzburg?

“All letters and postcards that are brought to this post office will be sent with the current Austrian Christmas stamp and will be stamped with the special “Silent Night” postmark. Since 2004 also the Silent Night Association been publishing a Silent Night Stamp every year.” –

Following in the Footsteps of Silent Night

Austria in Winter Travel and Home

Below are great day trips and tours you can easily book online.  (Using the links on this page is at no extra cost to you.)

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Musik: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818
Text: Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818
In Oberndorf, Austria

Lyrics to Stille Nacht

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Where to stay

Gartenhotel Rosenhof

Hotel Penzinghof

Kitzbuhel is only an hour and a half away from Oberndorf bei Zalzburg and offers a few nice places to stay.

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