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Austria’s First Christmas Tree Stood in the Albertina

It was on Christmas Eve in 1823 that the Austrian Christmas tree tradition began. That year saw Princess Henriette of Nassau-Weilburg, wife of Archduke Carl, celebrate Christmas together with her children in the audience chamber of this lordly palace, which they had inherited in 1822, for the first time. To her children’s delight and in keeping with time-honored German Protestant tradition, Princess Henriette had a “Grasbaum” put up.

Christmas Eve saw the archducal family gather before this new sort of tree, which was richly decorated with gingerbread, sweetmeats, apples, nuts, and aromatic wax candles. Also present was Archduke Carl’s brother, the frugal-minded Archduke Johann, who bemoaned such opulence and excess and was also quite taken aback at the absence of the traditional Catholic crèche.

Emperor Francis I soon learned of this magnificently decorated “Grasbaum” in the palace of his brother Archduke Carl, and 1824 saw him put up a Christmas tree of his own in the Vienna Hofburg. With this, the Christmas tree had become “acceptable at court”—which paved the way for it to begin playing an increasingly prominent role in the Christmas traditions of Austria.

Every year, the Christmas season still sees a Christmas tree put up in the Albertina’s State Rooms and traditionally decorated, reminding us of that December day in 1823.

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Immerse yourself in imperial flair at the ALBERTINA Museum: for around 100 years, the present-day museum building served as the residence of Habsburg archdukes and archduchesses. Bearing witness to this period are the 20 sumptuously decorated and painstakingly restored Habsburg State Rooms that sweep visitors away into the magnificent world of classicism with their precious wall coverings, chandeliers, fireplaces and stoves, distinctive marquetry, and exquisite furniture.

A video about the history of the christmas tree at the Albertina
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Video: The christmas tree in the state rooms
Image Gallery – 6 Images
Hall of the Muses | Photo © Georg Molterer
Hall of the Muses | Photo © Georg Molterer
Small Spanish Apartment | Photo © Georg Molterer
Small Spanish Apartment | Photo © Georg Molterer
State Rooms | Photos © Georg Molterer – 16 Images
Audience Hall | Photo © Georg Molterer
Audience Hall | Photo © Georg Molterer
Wedgwood Cabinet | Photo © Georg Molterer
Wedgwood Cabinet | Photo © Georg Molterer

 

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