German and Austrian Christmas customs and traditions. Many of the Christmas traditions that are enjoyed throughout Europe stem from Germany such as the all important Christmas tree – Tannenbaum – that takes pride of place in our living rooms and which we take great care to decorate with trinkets, baubles, tinsel and lights. From Austria we have the most well known of all Christmas Carols, Silent Night, without which Christmas would not be complete. In German and Austrian households the Christmas season begins with the start of Advent at which time the Advent wreath is made from pine branches and then decorated before adding the four candles, usually three white and one red. A candle is lit each week until the last one at Christmas. A lot of baking goes on throughout the lead up to Christmas, Stollen, Lebkuchen biscuits and an array of biscuits made with spices or ground nuts. Beautifully ornate gingerbread houses are baked and decorated with sweets and icing.. In towns and cities throughout Germany and Austria there have long been the special Weinhachtsmarkt, Christmas Markets, at which the decorated wooden stalls sell a great variety of gifts, foods, and novelties to the sounds of Christmas music and the smell of grilled bratwurst and the spicy aroma of Gluhwein which is served to keep out the cold on a snowy winter evening. The 6th of December sees the arrival of Sankt Nicolaus with his friend the ‘Krampus’. Sankt Nicolaus brings sweets, fruits and nuts for children who have been good and fills their shoes with these goodies but if they have not been exactly ‘good’ then the Krampus will leave a bunch of twigs to remind them to try harder! Children open the windows of their Adventskalender each day looking forward to Christmas Eve and the coming of the Christkindl who will bring presents for all good children. Traditionally the door of the main living room will remain locked until after the family meal of Christmas Eve when a bell will sound heralding the arrival of the Christkind. Children excitedly go and see what has been going on behind locked doors, there is the Christmas tree and presents which they can now open.