You don’t need to wait for Christmas to get in the holiday mood in Salzburg, Austria. The pre-Christmas Advent season is full of cheer and traditions (some of which pre-date Christianity altogether!).
Christkindlmarkts, stalls selling homemade crafts, ornaments, local food specialties like leberkase and hot mulled wine called gluhwein, line several squares in the city. Special concerts of holiday music and outdoor choir performances are scheduled daily.
And strange, shaggy creatures called Krampus, who symbolize Perchta, a pagan alpine goddess, roam the lanes and squares of the old town the streets. If you touch them or get swatted, consider yourself lucky – they are thought to bring good luck, and are also said to scare away the evil spirits before the arrival of St. Nicklaus.
Once you spend a few days here, it’s not hard to understand how Joseph Mohr, a native Salzburger who wrote the lyrics to “Silent Night”, came up with that atmospheric carol, which was first performed in nearby Oberndorf in 1818.