Gorgeous Video: ‘Tis the Season in Salzburg

You don’t need to wait for Christmas to get in the holiday spirit in Salzburg, Austria. 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, and special concerts and choir performances fill the air daily.

Revelers roam the street dressed as Krampusse—strange (and slightly menacing) shaggy creatures that symbolize the pagan alpine goddess Perchta. 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. Nick.

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 (you can still visit the chapel where it debuted).

Watch this short film by National Geographic photographer Bob Krist to get a taste of Salzburg during Advent season:

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