Shops hope to cash in on public holiday
Despite Austria’s Catholic public holiday on Tuesday, celebrating the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), the majority of shops are expected to stay open for what could be one of the busiest shopping days in the run up to Christmas.
Vienna’s shopping streets are forecast to be particularly hectic, with 150,000 people expected to take advantage of the day off work to go Christmas shopping, according to a survey by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s up to individual shops as to whether or not they decide to open for the holiday,” a spokesman from the Chamber of Commerce said, adding that it’s thought that the majority will be using the opportunity to cash in on the extra revenue.
The most prominent exception this year is the supermarket chain Billa. "Time is the most precious commodity we have. By closing our stores for the holiday, we are giving the gift of time to our employees", Billa CEO Robert Nagele said.
Back in 2009 Billa launched the 'Initiative for the Protection of December 8th'. A prominent supporter of the campaign is Toni Faber, priest of Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral. Other shops belonging to the Rewe group, of which Billa is part of, will be open on Tuesday - for example the 39 Merkur supermarkets in Vienna.
According to the Catholic Church, the Immaculate Conception is the day the Virgin Mary was conceived - free from original sin because she would become the mother of Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived by normal biological means, but God acted upon her soul (keeping her "immaculate") at the time of her conception.
Anyone driving into Vienna to shop will be pleased to hear that they won’t need to buy a ticket for short-term parking zones which are free during the public holiday. Exceptions to this are the parking areas at railway stations and hospitals as well as around the Rathaus.