December 15, 2009

Austrians campaign to boot out Santa

by David Masters

Traditionalists in Austria are campaigning to save Christkind, their traditional gift giver, from the clutches of Santa Claus.

“Christkind is a wonderfully beautiful Christmas story,” said Katrina Scheur, marcher on a recent pro-Christkind parade.

Santa Claus, she added, was invented by Coca-Cola and is an outsider representing heartless consumerism.

A tinkling bell after dark on Christmas Eve signals the arrival of Christkind.

Generations of Austrians, having heard the bell, have found that Christkind left them a fully decorated Christmas tree surrounded by presents.

To some Austrians, Christkind is a winged angel. To most, he or she is merely a half-seen flash of light in the window.

However. homes in Austria are increasingly being decorated with depictions of Santa Claus.

“Shopkeepers ask us what they should have instead of a Santa,” said Christoph Tschaikner, leader of the pro-Christkind movement.

“We recommend they have angels or shepherds. We prefer shepherds to angels.”

Around 100 marchers took part in the recent pro-Christkind procession in Graz.

Similar processions have also taken place in Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna.

However, not all Austrians welcome the sentiment of the marchers.

Sandro Galik, from Vienna, points out that Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus.

“What they are saying is only half true,” Galik said.

“I don’t think Christkind is any less materialistic than Santa.”

“It is still about presents, after all. And Santa brings people together.”

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