We’re joining the Multicultural Kid Blogs fourth annual Christmas in Different Lands series with a Christmas visit to Austria! This year each participating blogger is focusing on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see the series from 2013, 2014, and 2015. Plus follow the Multicultural Kid Blogs Christmas board on Pinterest!
The holidays are here, and our kids are saying, “Finally!” What better way to celebrate than with a trip to a Christmas Market? If you’re not lucky enough to have the real thing close by, you can still bring the smells and tastes of the Christmas market to your own kitchen with Vanillekipferl, an easy Austrian Christmas cookie favorite. The hardest part about Vanillekipferl is waiting a couple of days to eat them. It takes a few days for them to get crumbly, which is how Austrians like them!
Using a mixer, combine together:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Add and knead into a soft dough:
- 2 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup ground almonds
Cover the dough and put it into the refrigerator for about an hour. Then divide the dough into four parts. Roll each part into a long rope about ½” thick. Cut the ropes into pieces that are 2-3” long. Curve each piece into a quarter moon shape. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until they are a light brown. While the cookies are still hot, toss them in a small bowl of powdered sugar. Let the cookies cool completely on a rack.
Put them in a sealed container and hide them for a couple of days so they don’t all get eaten before they get crumbly! The recipe makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies.
Christmas in Austria
Ever since I wrote Mystery at the Christmas Market, I have a special place in my heart for Austria at Christmas. For Austrians, the season starts early with Saint Nicholas Eve on December 5. Saint Nicholas visits children’s homes and brings a Krampus with him.
In the US, we have the tradition of Santa Claus, who gives presents based on whether children are good or bad. Austrians have Krampus, who is a very scary beast-like creature. The tradition is that Krampus punishes naughty children and will even capture them and take them away. You’ll see Krampus at Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkt, especially on the evening of December 5, which is the eve of Saint Nicholas Day. Young men dress up as Krampus. They wear scary masks, carry chains and bells or brooms and stroll through the streets to beat the naughtiness out of children. These days, many groups of Krampusses, which the Austrians call a Pass, go through different villages on one evening. So you might see as many as a hundred of these devils. They playfully scare adults and children alike.
Saint Nicholas reads from his very large book all the misbehaving the children have done. He also reads some nice things he heard about the children over the last year. Children say a prayer or a poem and are rewarded with a bag filled with oranges, chocolates, and peanuts. Of course the Krampus will shake his chain when listening to misbehavior. As you can imagine, some children are afraid of the Krampus and dread his visit.
Austrians also have a tradition of Christmas trees. The door to the room is closed all day on Christmas Eve to allow the Christkind to decorate in secret. In the evening after dinner, a parent rings a bell. The children come into the room and see the beautiful tree. It may be decorated with cookies that are wrapped in paper, chocolate ornaments, and lit candles. This is also the time Austrians exchange Christmas gifts, which are nicely spread out under the tree.
Austria is full of Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkte. It’s such a favorite tradition that many US cities also have them. An Austrian Christkindlmarkt begins the first week of Advent, or four weeks before Christmas. The market will have lots of little booths that sell homemade jam and honey, tea, baked treats like pretzels or cookies, grilled bratwursts, and gluhwein. You’ll also find Christmas decorations, handcrafted wooden dishes, candleholders, needlework, and Advent calendars. You’ll often hear groups singing or musical groups playing. The best Christkindlmarkte touch all the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
To get into the Christmas spirit Austrian-style, curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, a Vanillekipferl (or two or three!), and Mystery at the Christmas Market.
Janelle Diller is a co-founder of Pack-n-Go Girls. She writes the Austria, Mexico, and Australia books and hands it off to her business partner, Lisa Travis, to write the Brazil and Thailand books. Designed by girls for girls who love to play and travel, Pack-n-Go Girls engages the imagination of children ages 6-9 by introducing them to different countries around the world. Pack-n-Go Girls early chapter book adventures are packed with spooky mysteries, international friendships, and lots of fun and easy multicultural learning. Check out the Pack-n-Go Girls website for more learning fun and FREE learning activities: www.packngogirls.com