There’s a battle on (sort of) for the hearts and minds of the children of Austria.
Not Coca-Cola versus Pepsi. Not Playstation against the Xbox. No, it’s Santa Claus in a fight to the finish with the Christkind.
- See also: Christmas traditions in Vienna
Marketing versus tradition
Portrayals of the Christkind tend to feature a young child dressed in brilliant white or gold. The Christkind character that often accompanies seasonal markets or Christmas events tends to be a young woman with long (blonde) hair and also dressed in white and gold.
(Vienna’s Mayor, Dr Michael Ludwig, presents the Wiener Christkind back in 2018; photo © C. Jobst/PID)
The imagery and spiritual association of the Christkind doesn’t lend itself easily, however, to modern commercialism and today’s marketing and advertising requirements.
Enter Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Now there’s a nice, safe, flexible, non-religious Christmas brand you can plaster across your product packaging.
Sensing their chance, companies across the land started using Santa Claus in their Christmas marketing materials, boosted in part by the help of
This led to a bit of a cultural debate about just who should be pitched as the bringer of gifts in Austria.
Things first came to a head way back in 2004, with both sides firing salvoes at each other via the media in an intensive effort to settle the issue one way or another. These days, an uneasy truce exists as marketers seem to have shifted to more neutral imagery, like snowmen, reindeer, and similar.
The Christkindlmarkt (Vienna’s largest Christmas market) has come down firmly on the side of traditionalists: 2004 saw the election of the first “Wiener Christkindl” (Vienna Christ Child) and that established concept is still going strong in 2021.
(Personally I think it’s the parents that bring the presents, but what do I know?)