In Austria, the last month of the year - Dezember - is dominated by the folk customs and traditions of the coming of Christmas. In late November Christmas Markets pop up in many communities all over Austria. Common fare includes crafts and food items like Glühwein, Maroni (roasted chestnuts) or Gebrannte Mandeln caramelised, roasted almonds with a hint of cinnamon).
Here is an overview of some popular events:
December 4 is St. Barbara′s Day. She is the patron saint of miners. People cut branches of cherry trees and put them into a jug of water. It is believed that if they cusp and bloom by Christmas, good luck and health will be forthcoming in the next year.
December 6 is St. Nicholas′ Day. This folk hero is the Austrian counterpart to Santa Claus, although he does not bring presents. He visits children′s houses and is sometimes accompanied by a Krampus (a furry, scary creature) that can punish the naughty children. St Nicholas traditionally brings small gifts, like fruits, nuts and some sweets.
December 24. Shops close midday and people attend a night church serve where they sing familiar carols, such as Silent Night and then celebrate at home with food and presents.
December 26 is Boxing Day and many people will travel distances to visit relatives and exchange gifts.
December 31 is Silvester, the day of St. Sylvester. The common tradition is to have parties and fireworks at night that bring in the New Year.