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CULTURE

Everything you need to know about this year’s Viennale festival

It's almost that time again when the Viennale takes over Vienna's cinemas. Here's what you need to know about the film festival, from when tickets go on sale to the main events in programme.

Everything you need to know about this year's Viennale festival
The 2022 edition of the Viennale will mark the festival's 60th anniversary. (Photo by Viennale / Roland Ferrigato)

What is the Viennale?

The Viennale is Vienna’s annual international film festival. It takes place every year in October and attracts around 92,000 visitors.

The first ever event was held in 1959, although it was simply known as a celebration of the most interesting films from that year. It was organised by Austrian film journalists who were tired of the domestic film scene at the time, described as a “cinematic wasteland” on the Viennale website.

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In the years that followed, the event became known as the Festival of Cheerfulness with a focus on comedies, before it moved towards the format that we see today.

The Viennale is now Austria’s largest international film festival and awards several prizes at the gala closing ceremony every year.

In 2022, the event runs from October 20th to November 1st.

Venues include Gartenbaukino on Parkring, Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus on Akademiestrasse, and the Österreichische Filmmuseum on Augustinerstrasse.

What are the highlights of this year’s festival?

Retired Japanese filmmaker Kijû Yoshida is the focus of the 2022 Viennale retrospective. The special programme includes 12 films chosen by the director (all with English subtitles).

According to the festival organisers, Yoshida’s films are not well known in Europe, which makes the retrospective a unique opportunity to watch them.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

The Austrian film programme is another highlight at the Viennale and includes the internationally-awarded Vera, by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel. Vera is the opening film at the festival and will also be screened at Gartenbaukino on October 21st.

The original language of Vera is Italian, but there are screenings with both English and German subtitles.

Additionally, several English language films will be screened at the festival, including Aftersun by Charlotte Wells, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed by Laura Poitras, and The Listener by Steve Buscemi.

Also, to celebrate 60 years of the Viennale, the festival organisers have created six different trailers for the 2022 event.

When and where can I buy tickets?

Presale tickets can be purchased from Saturday October 15th at 10am. They can be bought online, by phone or at the Gartenbaukino box office on Parkring.

From October 20th, tickets can also be purchased at the festival cinemas. A wait list will be in place for sold out screenings.

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For online ticket sales, you have to register in advance at the festival website, viennale.at.

A single tickets costs €9.50 and there is a special rate of €6.50 for student daytime tickets.

A free pocket guide with the entire festival programme can be picked up from Metro Kinokulturhaus at Johannesgasse, Karlplatz or Stadtpark. 

Are there any Covid rules?

For the past two years, the Viennale has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

First, the festival took place in a smaller form in 2020, and then in 2021 there were several restrictions to comply with.

This year, the process is almost back to normal with organisers simply recommending festival-goers to wear an FFP2 mask. 

However, the website does say to double check the rules before attending a screening in case there have been any changes.

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AUSTRIAN TRADITIONS

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

Catholics celebrate the first Sunday of Advent this weekend, and Austrians are ready for the season with crowns, demon-like creatures lurking, and a winged baby that brings children toys.

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

The Christmas season is definitely full of events in Austria, a country where 55.2 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, according to Statistik Austria data from 2021. The season starts early, as Christmas markets open by mid-November, and lasts until January 6th, when Austrians traditionally bring down their season decorations.

There are also many specific dates and local traditions that can seem endearing or absolutely terrifying. For example, in early December, a nice man with a white beard brings tangerines and chocolates to good children. 

But before he does, his “assistant”, a nightmarish creature with horns and carrying around loud chains named Krampus, goes to the houses of children who misbehave.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

Christmas markets are open to all from mid (sometimes early) November, and Austrians traditionally flock to the spots for their yearly share of glühwein, punsch and typical food. The cities also light up with Christmas lights and decorations, and the season is one of the best for Austrian tourism, especially in the capital Vienna. You can see HERE a list of all the Viennese Christmas markets in 2022.

Don’t want to miss out on any traditions? Here are the dates for the Austrian Christmas season:

Advent Sundays (November 27th)

The fourth Sunday before Christmas is also known as the first Advent Sunday – it starts the “season of Advent” (or the season of “Arrival”) and many Austrian Christmas traditions.

This year, the first Advent Sunday is on November 27th.

Austrians will typically celebrate by baking Christmas biscuits and cookies, putting up some decorations and, most notably, preparing an Advent wreath (Adventkranz) that will hold the four candles of Advent. 

Then, every Sunday until Christmas, a new candle will be lit, counting down the time until Christmas. Some families will join in a celebratory meal and might even sing carols (including Silent Night which is actually Austrian).

Adventskalender (December 1st)

Another way of counting down the days until Christmas is with the traditional Adventskalender – those can start on the first Sunday of Advent. However, the commercial ones are typically from December 1st until December 25th.

There are countless calendars for sale and usually, for each day, the person gets a typical “present” that the person receives. Usually, it’s chocolates or sweets (more religious ones will contain a bible verse or a prayer), but nowadays, you can find Adventskalender of almost any theme – including for dogs.

READ ALSO: Eight unmissable Christmas experiences in Austria

Barbarazweig (December 4th)

On December 4th, Austrians celebrate St Barbara’s Day or Barbaratag. In 2022, the date also falls on an Advent Sunday. 

For Barbaratag, some people in Austria will cut small twigs and sticks from cherry trees or forsythias to decorate a vase at home. There is a superstition that if the twig blossoms before Christmas, the family will have good luck or someone will get married. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Participants wearing masks featuring the character of “Krampus”, a half-goat, half-demon figure punishing misbehaving children during the Christmas season. (Photo by Peter Kneffel / dpa / AFP)

Krampus (December 5th)

This might be one of the most unusual and surprising traditions (if you have never seen it before, that is). On December 5th, a horned, scary anthropomorphic devil creature visits the homes of Austrians and scares children who weren’t good kids during the year. They are also said to scare away the dark spirits of winter and are a very traditional part of local folk customs.

There are many Krampuslaufen (a sort of Krampus parade) in Austria – not all on December 5th. In them, people dress up as the demonic entity with chains and torches. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Der Krampus

Nikolaus

Krampus is actually a companion to the much more friendly St. Nicholas, an entity that looks quite a lot like Santa Claus. 

St. Nicholas comes during the night of the 5th to 6th of December and rewards the well-behaved children with tangerines, sweets and peanuts. This is why your Austrian neighbours might leave their boots outside on that evening – Nikolaus fills them up with gifts and sweets. 

He has a long white beard and wears a religious vestment that is white and red, similar to a bishop’s vest.

READ ALSO: Posting Christmas presents from Austria? Here’s what you need to know

Christmas Eve and Christkind (December 24th)

If you think a lot has happened already, then imagine Christmas Eve. This is when the actual celebrations happen (not on the 25th). The shops will close early, and families will gather to decorate the Christmas tree – yes, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to follow this tradition of only decorating the tree on December 24th.

They also meet for Christmas eve dinner, which can vary greatly depending on family traditions and Austrian regions. From raclette to roasted geese or cold meats, much can be served during the evening. 

Another thing that might sound strange to foreigners is that there is no Santa Claus or Father Christmas in Austria. Instead, it is the “Christkind” (literally Christ Child, or baby Jesus) who brings the presents on Christmas eve.

READ ALSO: Where to find international food in Austria this Christmas

He looks much like a Cherubin and the children are told that he brings the presents, rings a bell and lights up the Christmas tree. 

The whole experience may seem curious to those watching for the first time: kids are lured into a separate room and the adults run to get gifts from the secret hiding places, set up the scene, turn on the tree lights and turn off other lights. Some then ring a small bell and the children are surprised to learn that they barely missed the winged baby who brought all the gifts.  

Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day (December 25th and 26th)

Though the evening before Christmas is the most important, Austrians continue to meet up during the next day and the 26th. 

Lunches and dinners are shared with loved ones and there is some more gift exchanging during those days. If they live in the mountains, they might go skiing on Christmas Day and later, as well.

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

Three wise men tree ornament

Epiphany is when the three wise men find Jesus in the stable. Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

Three Wise Kings Day (January 6th)

Finally, the Christmas tree and the decorations are left until January 6th. In Catholic belief, this is when the three wise kings came to visit baby Jesus with presents. 

Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar might literally visit Austrian homes. They then leave their mark: their initials and the year written in chalk above the house door, the K + M + B sign that is often seen by the doors of people in Austria.

January 6th is also Christmas eve for Orthodox believers and is celebrated by many people in Austria.

Austria is a small but very diverse country with countless traditions, especially during Christmas time. Did we miss your favourite one? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected] or leaving a comment.

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