Sometimes he is accompanied by a beast-like creature called Krampus, whom he can order to punish naughty children.
The bigger presents come for Christmas, and are traditionally delivered by the Christkind, a sprite-like child who is sometimes pictured with angel wings, and who miraculously leaves a fully decorated tree and presents after dark on Christmas Eve.
The Christkind tradition started in the Protestant areas of Germany in the 16th Century, and arrived in Catholic Austria in 1870 – replacing an even older custom of giving seasonal offerings to household spirits.
1. How about a visit to Vienna’s famous Christkindlmarkt in front of the City Hall (Rathaus), where children can listen to Christmas stories read and performed by actors and celebrities.
They can also admire the beautifully decorated 28 metre high Christmas tree, and meet this year’s Christkind.
The lights will be switched on and the market officially opened on November 15th at 5.30pm. There will be around 150 stalls selling gifts, tree decorations, sweet treats and warming drinks.
2. The Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace offers a romantic setting as well as traditional handicrafts, hand-made Christmas decorations, Christmas concerts and an extensive children's program, including a Christmas workshop where children can make marzipan figures and wood and felt angels. It opens on November 22nd – and the 18 metre tree has already been installed.
On December 5th and 6th St Nicholas will make an appearance, between 2pm and 6pm and good children are sure to be rewarded with a treat.
Krampus and Nicholas. Photo: Thomas Wittwer
3. Gymboree Play & Music centre in Vienna's 2nd district will hold a Christmas Bazaar on December 1st – with 10 percent off the price of all toys.
Their top picks for children’s gifts are: The Gymbo backpack – suitable for children aged 2.5 years and up (€28). Playful and practical, it’s a great accessory for preschoolers.
Bubble Oodles, for children aged from 3 years (€10). Five bubble ports are the secret to making loads of bubbles with one easy blow. The set includes an easy-grip wand, a non-spill tray and four ounces of Bubble Oodles' non-toxic formula.
Photo: Gymboree Play & Music Vienna
The Gymtunes maraca and drum set for children aged two years and up (€16,50) will encourage your child to play an instrument while you sing along together. Gymtunes features easy-to-handle, child sized instruments designed to develop your child's fine motor skills and build pitch and rhythm awareness. A pocket harmonica, mini orchestra set, and a samba set are also available.
4. Carrousel Kids in Vienna’s 1st district is the place to go if you're looking for top notch baby and children’s fashion, mostly from French designers. They also have a great range of toys, games and mobiles.
5. There will be plenty of children’s books and games on offer at the Christ Church Christmas Bazaar on November 22nd, in Vienna’s 3rd district. Children can visit Santa Claus in his grotto and play in the children’s corner where they can have their faces painted and buy animal balloons.
6. Herr und Frau Klein Children’s Fashion in the 7th district is Austria’s first concept store for children and has a great range of hand picked traditional toys and creative gifts for smaller children, including wooden train sets, rocking horses and sledges as well as clothes.