“Silent night, burning bright“

Austrian traditions during pre-Christmas time


December is a magical month in any culture. It’s time of lights, miracles, surprises and hope. In December Austrians light candles for Advent.


In 2022 on November 27th Austrians celebrate the first Advent. There are four events: every Sunday before Christmas. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.


“These rituals are passed from generation to generation”, Elza Ratz, a teacher from Villach, says. “We have several books at home on how to celebrate Advent. Three important things on Advent are the  “Adventkranz”, the advent calendar and special songs”.


An 'Adventkranz' is a wreath of fir branches with four candles. Elza explains: “On the first Advent Sunday we get together in the evening to light the first candle. We sing Advent songs and tell the story. On the second Sunday we light two candles, on the third there are three and then all four. I guess the meaning of this is that every week is becoming lighter and lighter before the birth of Jesus”.


At Advent some people go to church and arrange Bible reading at home. In fact Advent is the time of repentance and fasting. But for children it’s time of magic and presents. On December the 1st, Austrian children get advent calendars, divided into 24 sections with small surprises inside. “For my daughter Olivia I prefer to do it myself”, Elza tells. “Children write a wish-letter to the Christ Child. Besides, we bake cookies together. Every family has its own favorite recipes. I grew up with these customs and would like to pass on our daughter Olivia! We enjoy being together during Advent time. It is for me a time of reflection and meditation”.



  1. Olivia Ratz makes an advent wreath herself with help of her mother.
  2. Waiting for Christmas is the favorite time of the Ratz family.

Text and photos: Vita Vitrenko