Advent and Christmas
Advent arrives with the four Sundays before Christmas and at the same time the preparation for the Christmas season begins. An important part of this period is the colourful Advent wreath, which is supposed to shorten the wait for the holidays. In Styria, the traditional Advent wreath is homemade. The family crafts and ties it themselves. If you are short on skill, you can make it easy on yourself, because there are many colourful Advent wreaths from the region available for purchase at the farmers markets. Decorated in all versions and chic, this custom provides plenty of pre-Christmas magic in Styrian farms and homes.
During the Advent season, you meet good-natured figures such as St. Nicolas on December 05, who gives children gifts and praises their deeds, or even a little rebuke. St. Nicolas often is accompanied by the scary figure of a krampus. In many places, there are krampus processions where onlookers and the grave can admire the dark figures or even accompany them. You should take care of your legs during these processions, because many of the krampus have rods with them and make use of them from time to time.
Very well-known is the Öblarner krampus play. It is one of the last Styrian folk plays. It is performed on farms and as a public performance on the market square. You do not have to be afraid here nor watch out for your legs, because the krampus play offers a frighteningly nice atmosphere for the whole family. Figures such as the hunter, Lucifer and entourage, the blacksmith and "Habergoas", which are played by laymen, play an important role in the Öblarner krampus play and convey original texts from the 18th century. The Öblarner krampus play is also registered as an intangible cultural heritage. The earliest written mention allegedly comes from 1816, the year in which archduke Johann is to have described the performance during a visit to Öblarn.
On December 24 and 25, Christmas is celebrated. Many children can hardly wait for this holiday. What can't be done without at Christmas: a nativity set, candles, apples and nuts. The traditional straw stars and the popular Christmas biscuits in particular create a Christmas atmosphere. And of course the Christmas tree is the centre of attention, which is a custom from the 19th century. Before then, the Christmas tree we know now was only a simple undecorated conifer tree, which was stuck in the snow. The well-known nativity scene goes back to St. Francis of Assisi and today is still a symbol of Christmas and the scene of Jesus' birth.
A more recent development is the numerous strings of lights that not only light up the cultural capital of Graz, but also the balconies and roofs in small towns in the country during the Christmas season. The small lights create a magical atmosphere. During the Christmas season, Christmas programmes awaken anticipation of the holidays: cosy winter hikes, such as the annual Christmas midnight mass hike in the home of Peter Rosegger, or Advent in the footsteps of our ancestors in the open-air museum in Stübing present Christmas in a very harmonious atmosphere.
For the creative ones: if you want to craft during Advent, there are workshops for crafting Advent wreaths, painting Christmas ornaments or building lanterns in many places so you can immerse yourself in Advent. If you prefer to purchase works of art rather than craft them yourself, there are a number of splendid Advent markets awaiting you in the city and country. The Advent markets offer more than just handicrafts: here, you can chat to your heart's desire, get in the holiday mood and try culinary delights of all kinds.
Robert Pauritsch, Norbert Adam: Brauchtum in der Steiermark. Feste, Bräuche, Rezepte. Styria Verlag 2007.
Waltraud Ferrari: Alte Bräuche neu erleben. Fest- und Alltag im Rhythmus der Jahreszeiten. Leopold Stocker Verlag 2014.