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: CHRISTMAS AND ADVENT IN VIENNA

No sooner has November drawn a thick curtain of drizzle and fog across the heavens and the days become steadily shorter, then some places sink into a deep melancholy. But not Vienna. Here the weeks leading up to Christmas are romantic and idyllic.

The Advent Season

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: Austrian Christmas Creches - Wiehnachtskrippen

By Billie Ann Lopez

Tucked inside a small rectangular gold box, the beauty of which is further enhanced by 13 stunning precious stones each accented by pearls, is a piece of Christ's manger, a gift from Pope Urban V to the Habsburg Emperor Karl IV in 1368. It now resides in Vienna's Schatzkammer (Treasury) in the Hofburg complex.

The Advent Season

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: The Christmas That Gave Us A Much Loved Melody

By Billie Ann Lopez

The damage done by the nibbling of mice on the organ bellows of St. Nikolaus Church in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf near Salzburg threatened to ruin Christmas Eve mass in the year 1818. Since none of the available music was suitable without an organ as accompaniment, the curate had to compose a substitute - or face a silent Christmas. That is how ''Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht'' (''Silent Night, Holy Night''), one of the most popular Christmas carols ever written, came into being.

The Advent Season

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: Christmas Saints As Matchmakers

And Other Odd Bits In Old Austrian Advent Customs And Traditions

By Billie Ann Lopez

While seeming rather quaint today, these old folk beliefs and customs do reflect the importance a young woman's matrimonial prospects held in former times. Young maidens had one career possibility in life and that was marriage. Alternatives weren't nearly as attractive. It was only natural that young maidens were preoccupied with trying to determine just who their future husbands might be.

The Advent Season

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: INTANGIBLE GIFTS THAT BRING JOY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

As an expert in personal property, my days are filled with visiting estates, consulting with my clients, and ascertaining what has value versus what does not. I help Boomer children make sound estate decisions after mom and dad have passed on. Also, I work closely with seniors helping them make a plan for their heirlooms, and appraising the worth of their collectibles.

The Advent Season

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: Christkindl Post Office

The charming little village "Christkindl" near Steyr in Upper Austria has got something very unusual, i.e. its name, which means Infant Jesus; according to Austrian tradition, "Christkindl" brings Christmas presents to children. For over fifty years now, Österreichische Post AG has its special "Christkindl" Post Office.

The Advent Season

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: THE POINSETTIA (WEIHNACHTSSTERN)

The Poinsettia is native to Mexico. It has been associated with the Christmas season because the Mexicans thought the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem. The plant was brought to America over 100 years ago by Dr. Joel Poinsett, our first ambassador to Mexico.

The Advent Season

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: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS CAROL

The song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol, although the music is reputed to be French. rom 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

The Advent Season

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: AUSTRIAN CHRISTMAS PASTRIES

As soon as the days start getting noticeably shorter and the first Christmas decorations appear in shop windows, a special enchantment settles over the streets. The Advent market fills the air with the scent of cinnamon cookies, evergreen boughs and honey-laden beeswax candles which drifts through streets twinkling with Christmas lights.

The Advent Season

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: Roast Goose Christmas Dinner in Austria

Having Goose on the Christmas table dates back to the medieval times when it is usually feasted on during winter festivals.  Then, it was often roasted on a spit over an open fire and stuffed with onion, sage or goose liver stuffing and eaten with a fruit sauce.

The Advent Season

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: THE GLUEHWEIN AND PUNCH SEASON

One thing that makes Vienna's long dark winter warm and hospitable are the punch stands throughout the city. You will see the Viennese milling around enjoying a warm drink and the friendly conversation, so just walk up, get a drink and join in.

The Advent Season

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: Bringing In The New Year In Viena

Vienna on New Year's Eve offers an explosive mixture of events as the city lets its hair down for an all-night party. There are marquees and live performances, rock 'n' roll, disco and old-fashioned waltzes. The New Year's Trail points the way from one attraction to the next. Everything stops on the stroke of midnight as the 'Pummerin' bell in St. Stephen's Cathedral booms in the New Year, before the revelers continue to party on right through the night.

The Advent Season

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