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Viennese Santa Claus and Christmas traditions

Who brought the presents in imperial Vienna?

If we were to go back 250 years, we here in Vienna would already have the joy of gift-giving or the stress of gift-giving – as the case may be – behind us. Santa Claus brought the presents and at Christmas there was nothing in this respect. In Protestant areas, the Saint Christian had already replaced St. Nicholas since Luther and had become the new gift-bringer. This evolved into the angelic Christ Child. In Catholic countries it took about 300 years to catch on.

While the Protestants increasingly turned Christmas into a contemplative family celebration with presents for well-behaved children, in Catholic Imperial Vienna things were often still quite boisterous and merry. After all, it was precisely with the Counter-Reformation that Catholicism had again been prescribed for the Viennese, so the authorities could not at the same time insist on a Christmas celebration like that of the Protestants. The lavish baroque period did the rest. Before Christmas Mass, the Viennese were to be found mainly in the wine taverns and inns, and many missed Mass or had to leave early because of indisposition.

The visit of Santa Claus with the Krampus appearing as a duo was developed theatrically and comedically. The Enlightenment thinkers of the time of Joseph II took a hard line on these Krampus and St. Nicholas spectacles. Presents for well-behaved children and cane strokes for the not so well-behaved ones, that was pedagogically questionable even back then.

From the 19th century onwards, Protestant traditions were also adopted here, the Christmas tree was introduced and Christmas Eve became a family celebration with presents under the tree. When and with whom the first Christmas tree appeared in Vienna, I will tell you in the next blog article.

If you are still looking for a gift, we can recommend a voucher for a private tour for up to 10 people. Spending time together and discovering something new will bring you all joy. When giving gifts and when experiencing Vienna together.

We are putting our Christmas voucher in the online shop again this year. 20% discount for a 2h city tour of your choice.