The Christkind is usually depicted as an angelic figure who traditionally brings children gifts on December 24th, in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
The priest visited the school on Monday to bless its Advent wreath. An angry mother told the Heute newspaper that “after the blessing the priest basically told the children that there is no Christkind and that all the gifts are actually brought by their parents”.
Some of the children were reportedly devastated by this news. "Many of our friends’ children came back from school in tears. We had to tell them that the priest is getting old and that he’s easily confused,” one mother, who didn’t want to be named, told the newspaper.
School head Elisabeth Vodicka confirmed that the incident had taken place. But when the newspaper asked the priest, Pastor Ludwig Gmoser to comment, he said that he refused to “discuss religious matters with a newspaper”.
Parents told the paper that Gmoser is "stricter than the pope" and that children and families who miss mass more than once are not invited to take their First Communion. “But taking away the children’s belief in Christmas traditions is just mean,” one mother said. However, another mother who is on the school’s parents committee, defended the priest. “He didn’t intend to be mean, he just chose his words badly,” she said, adding that he intended to tell the children that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ.
Children in Austria never see the Christkind in person, and parents tell them that Christkind will not come and bring presents if they are curious and try to spot it. In some traditions, the Christkind’s departure from the house is announced by ringing a small bell, which the parents pretend to have heard or which is secretly done by one of the adults in the family.
The Christkind tradition started in the Protestant areas of Germany in the 16th Century, but only arrived in largely Catholic Austria in 1870 - replacing an older custom of giving seasonal offerings to household spirits.