December 24th - Christmas Eve ('Heiliger Abend')
As a rule Christmas is a holiday with the family. Christmas Eve is mostly celebrated with close relations only. Preparations for Christmas Eve start during the afternoon with adorning the Christmas tree ('Christbaum'). Some families use colourful toys, straw stars, small bells and crystal balls, self-made items and even chocolate, sweets and fruits. Lit candles finish the design. Some prefer a less colourful assortment and use crystal balls, silvery or golden adornments and candles. The Christmas crib ('Krippe'), a figurative depiction of the Holy Family in the stable where Christ was born, is erected. Afterwards children are out of the room, so that the 'Bescherung' can take place: the 'Christkindl' (Austria's equivalent of Santa Clause) brings presents and places them below the tree.
When the children return the Christmas tree is lit. Christmas carols are sung and Christmas stories are read. Strictly speaking Christmas Eve is still part of the fasting season with Christmas carp or sausages being the traditional meal. But again, it is not unheard of that Christmas cookies are nibbled on this occasion. Finally, the presents are opened and the evening is spent in happy contemplation of the gifts until it is time for Christmas services ('Christmette'), which take place at midnight.
December 25th - Christmas Day ('Christtag')
Christmas Day is the day for visits and receptions. All relations in the vicinity come together and - as the fasting has officially ended - food is of no little importance. The rest of the day, if any, is spent in happy contemplation of the presents.
After that, festivities do not really stop till New Year's Eve.
X-mas in Vienna