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Weidmann, Franz Seraph - Weinakademie Österreich (8/25)
Weigl, Josef Weihnachtsspiele


Christmas Customs: Christmas, Christian feast in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, originally celebrated on January 6 (Epiphany), since the 4th century on December 25. Christmas and the beginning of the year were intermingled and it was not until 1582 (Gregorian calendar reform) that the beginning of the New Year was given a date of its own. From the 6th century onwards Christmas was given a special liturgical standing in that three different masses were said (Midnight Mass, Angel Mass, and the festive mass on the morning of Christmas Day) the octave of the feast was celebrated on January 1. In Austria, a drastic change in Christmas celebrations, which were characterised by often coarse entertainments (Mass was interrupted by interludes with masquerades, puppet shows and the singing of gay, frequently rude, songs) was brought about by the Reformation. Both the birth of Christ and Christmastide as a whole (from Christmas to Epiphany) are characterised by many liturgical and non-liturgical customs. Customs on Christmas Eve, Christmas Night and Christmas Day form a coherent whole, but special importance attaches in the non-liturgical field to Christmas Eve (December 24) when the Christkind (Holy Child) - or Santa Claus (secularised successor to St. Nicholas) - brings presents. Up to the Biedermeier period, the presents were brought by St. Nicholas, either on his feast day (December 6) or occasionally on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve. The Christmas Tree was popularised in the 19th century, relegating the crib or manger to the background. The Christmas manger has since been associated with the singing of Christmas (manger or shepherds") songs (documented since the 11th and 12th centuries) and also of Christmas carols and Epiphany songs ("Sternsingen"). The most popular Christmas songs date from the 18th and 19th centuries, including "O du fröhliche", "O Tannenbaum", "Ihr Kinderlein kommet", "Alle Jahre wieder", "Es wird scho glei dumpa" and the world-famous carol "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) (1818). Catholic families celebrate Christmas by attending Midnight Mass (which has in some parishes been moved to the evening hours of Christmas Eve). Formerly the morning of Christmas Eve was a Catholic fasting day, while the evening meal developed into a festive occasion with meat or fish courses and Christmas cakes and biscuits (poppyseed cake, "Kletzenbrot", Zelten, Christstollen, gingerbread, biscuits). Christmas Day (December 25) is usually devoted to the family; the traditional Christmas dinner features poultry. The second Christmas day (December 26) is dedicated to St. Stephen ("Stephanitag").- Apart from the Christian feast celebrating the birth of Christ and the secular occasion for exchanging presents on Christmas Eve, Christmas has in recent decades developed into a favourite season for shopping, entertainments and travel, which industry and trade have put to good use. From early November onwards, advertising and business firms devote themselves to the promotion of Christmas shopping (Christmas decorations in shops and shop windows, Christmas lighting in streets and shopping malls, Christmas jingles, Advent and Christmas markets); in the post-war years shops were open on the 3rd ("Silver Sunday") and 4th ("Golden Sunday") Sundays in Advent; currently shops keep their doors open on the last four Saturday afternoons before Christmas. To counteract increasing commercialisation a number of welfare schemes have been introduced in recent years (including the annual "Licht ins Dunkel" ["Light up Darkness"] campaign organised by ORF Austrian Radio and Television since 1973 for the benefit of handicapped children, the Catholic Men's Movement's "Bruder in Not" ["Brother in Need"] campaign, and various schemes operated by Caritas Socialis). Since 1959 a lighted "Christmas Tree for All" (donated in rotation by one of the federal provinces) has been erected on Rathausplatz in Vienna, a custom that has been adopted by many other cities and towns.

Literature: I. Weber-Kellermann, Das Weihnachtsfest, 1978; H. M. Wolf, Das Brauch-Buch, 1992.

References to other albums:
Video Album: Mechanische Weihnachtskrippe in Christkindl, Oberösterreich.,
Nikolaus und Krampus beschenken brave, aber wirklich nur brave!! Kinder.,

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