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Magic of advent arrives in Vienna at the weekend

Christmas arrives in Vienna in force this weekend when the official Christmas market opens at the Rathausplatz.

The "Adventzauber" meaning Advent Magic market is the biggest Christmas market in Vienna and this year will include on the "Heavenly Stage" the distribution of presents for the first time by celebrities.

The crib which is normally under the Christmas tree will for a short while be moved to the park itself to make space for this to happen. The celebrities will read Christmas stories and singer Uwe Kröger, etiquette guru Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer, presenter Arabella Kiesbauer, Cathedral manager Toni Faber and actor Erich Schleyer will be under the spotlight.

During the market children will be offered the chance to make a wish for Christmas and 20 of the requests will be dealt with.

And while good old Santa Claus is becoming increasingly a part of the Austrian Christmas the traditional bearer of gifts remains the Christ child. This year he will also be present at the market embodied by schoolgirl Amanda Larissa, 17, who will play the role from Thursday through to Sunday.

The Christmas market itself will have stands selling candles, pottery, lots of decorations and Christmas cakes as well as drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic from a total of 140 different stands. Visitors need to pay a deposit to get a cup and can either take it home or hand it back to get the deposit. This year there will be deposits demanded for bottles and paper plates to stop litter building up.

The heart of the Christmas market remains the Christmas tree of course this year provided by lower Austria which is around 120 years old and 32 m high - and when it is finally switched on will be covered in more than 1,000 lights.

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