Archive for the ‘Austrian custom(s)’ Category


August 23, 2010

An bestimmten Tagen im Jahr vor vielen hunderten Jahren wurde ein Christ von Heiden erschlagen/gegrillt/löwenverfüttert odgl. Und heute feiern wir ihn! Hurra.

Dazu gibt es zuallererst eine nette kleine Messe. Wenn man wie unser Pfarrer froody ist, googlet man erst ein bisschen und weiß dann allerlei Aktuelles über den Heiligen (wie etwa, dass eine Rockband sich nach diesem benannt hat… Und dann kann man pfeffrige lyrics-Zitaten um sich schmeißen. Und die alten Weiblein in der Kirche verstehen Bahnhof, aber das ist egal, weil früher auf Latein haben sie auch nichts verstanden. ).
Nach der Messe aber geht es wirklich los. Die Dorfprominenz versammelt sich. Die Blaskappelle, der Bürgermeister und die Gemeinderäte gehen voran, gefolgt von den Uniformierten (Feuerwehr, Musikverein, goldhaubenverein etc). Und dann kommt das Allerheiligste. Sehr froody. Das sind vier Stecken, auf denen ein reich goldbesticktes Seidendächlein thront und von dem funkelnde Gold- und Spiegelchen hängen. Unter diesem Baldachin darf der Pfarrer gehen und uralte Männer tragen die vier Stecken. Und massig Ministranten schwingen Weihrauchkessel.
Und so zieht das versammelte Dorf durch die Stadt, bis hin zu dem Platz, wo es Würstchen und Alkohol gibt.

PS: Soon to come: Ein Eintrag über Marienprozessionen.



Juni 20, 2010

Sonnwendfeier or Sonnenwendefeier (celebration of Midsummer Night) is celebrated on the shortest night of the year (which is usually around june 21st) and the days around this shortest night of the year.
People gather at night around the „Sonnwendfeuer“ (a massive fire called Midsummer night’s fire). Boys and girls dance and there is food and drink and merrytime and laughter.
Some even jump over the giant fire which is rather dangerous but very cool. Everyone cheers whenever people try to jump. (This custom has a Slavic origin, I think.) (more…)

We did it!

Mai 1, 2010

We erected the „Maibaum“ (may-tree).
In the morning seven or eight men went in the woods to cut the tree. After a few bottles of beer and one tree rushing down the hill, nearly killing two of them (each time the story is told their escape from the evil tree becomes more heroic) they emerged victorious. In they rode rolled in parking lot escorted by policecars. Three men balancing the tree on the artic chair, a fourth man (I swear) standing on top of the artic chair, keeping the Austrian flag high.
Then our work started.
We put 200 m of fake-silk ribbons on the tree. Then we put the three huge fir rings (traditionally cities have tree rings, simple towns only get one) on the tree. The third ring was perfectly decorated by U , and had an iron ring on the inside because it was so huge that straw would have been broken. Anyway, we managed to put the rings on the tree as well. The last thing we put on the tree was the garland ( (made from firbranches and breaking everytime we handled it wrong) which was quite a nasty work as it was a hot day and all of us had bare arms, but heroic as we were we did our job without a flinch.
Then the nicely decorated tree was taken to our town’s centre S had ordered a tower crane and the tree was erected.

It was a lot of fun to really take part in that (afterwards I was one of the girls handing out drnks which was nice, too, but more like an everyday sort of nice). The feeling of accomplishment and utter coolness is totally worth your sweat and your swearing.

Oh, but how heroic all the men participating are. I’ve seen so many of them with tiny scratches on their cheek, little cuts on their arms, showing their wounds like war-veterans ^^ Not that I didn’t feel with them. As a fellow heroine I showed them my arms full of tiny scratches from putting silk ornaments on the resisting tree.
But – this has to be mentioned – there is something about men (at least in small towns): They make a fuss big deal of everything they do. Most of them were constantly standing around and commenting or drinking beer – but when the work was done, guess who was heroic. Guess who gave his blood (half a drop ^^) , guess who sacrificed himself, guess who was in the utmost danger to finish the job.

Februar 25, 2010

Abba Haidschi bumbaidschi schlaf lange,
Es ist ja dei Muetter ausgange,
Sie ist ja ausgange
Und kummt lang net hoam,
Und läßt dös kloa Büabel alloa net dahoam.
Abba Haidschi bumbaidschi,
Bum, bum, bum, bum,
Abba Haidschi bumbaidschi, bum bum.

Abba Haidschi bumbaidschi schlaf süeße,
Die Engelein lasse di grüeße,
Sie lasse di grüeße
Und lass’n di frag’n,
Ob sie dös kloa Büeblei umanander soll’n trag’n.
Abba . . . .

Aber Haidschi Bumbaidschi, in Himm’l
Da fahrt di a schneeweißer Schimm’l,
Drauf sitzt a kloans Engli
Mit oaner Latern,
Drein leicht vom Himmel der allerschenst Stern,
Abba . . . .

Und der Haidschi bumbaidschi is kumma,
Und er hot ma mei Büeblei mitgnumma,
Und er hot mir’s mitgnumma
Und hot’s nimma bracht,
Drum wünsch ich meim Büeblei a recht guete Nacht.
Abba . . . .
melody and lyrics taken from here as well

(this song is strangely creepy and yet warm. It’s a song my grandmother used to sing to me as a child.)



Februar 16, 2010

Fasching (= carneval) is celebrated in February, especially on Faschingsdienstag, the day before Aschermittwoch (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is about 40 days before Easter).

Fasching involves:

* unhealthy but yummy food: pe Krapfen (some sort of sweet yeast dough baked in hot oil, stuffed with vanilla cream or apricot jam… a Krapfen resembles a donut), Heringsalat (herring salad) and Specknudel (some sort of pasta stuffed with bacon and meat, traditionally served with kraut)

* dressing up or masking yourself as something silly

* fancy dress parties and balls in local pubs and community centers

* fancy dress parties in kindergarten

* Faschingssitzungen (Faschings-Councils): People pretend to be politicians, lokal or international celebrities and make fun of them. I really like this costum as for the one and only time you can hear what people really think of the people in power. Everyone roars with laughter and you can judge from the audience’s reaction whether or not the Faschingsgilde (the „guild“, ie people who „rule“ the Faschingscouncil) hit the nerve.

* alcohol. In Catholic regions the act of fasting 40 days before easter is practised. Fasting means no meat and no alcohol. Aschermittwoch is the beginning of fasting, therefore the day before (Faschingsdienstag) is the last day where alcohol can be drunk according to the church. Nowaydays – as I already mentioned – few people still fast. But they still drink alcohol as if they wouldn’t be allowed to drink any for the next 40 days.

* Faschingsumzüge (Carnival parades): People in their costumes attend a mixture of a parade and a street party. Many people come in groups dressed alike. Some groups have carnival floats which are huge cnstructions of wood and paper, shaped like animals, ships or cool objects. Rice, sun seeds and sweets are thrown in the air. Music is played and everyone can act out their desire to act collectively and loud.

Personally I must say that I am not too fond of Fasching. I like the Faschingssitzung (Faschings-council) and small fancy dress parties. But the whole alcoholic, collective, loud atmosphere doesn’t feel like home to me. And I really dislike it when I can’t see the facial expression of someone who talks to me. I think masks beautiful but I don’t want to talk or be talked or be asked to join (or dance with) anyone who doesn’t show me his face. It just creeps me out.

28.12. Tag der unschuldigen Kinder

Dezember 28, 2009

A few days after Christmas, on december 28th is „Tag der unschuldigen Kinder“ (day of the innocent children). It’s a day to remember the innocent children slaughtered by evil Roman Herodes who wanted to kill baby Jesus (attempt unsuccessful). In Carinthia we have the costum of „frisch and g’sund wixxen“ („beat you fresh and healthy“) on this day. It mostly resembles the Irish Halloween (see my Halloween entry for Austrian Halloween).

Children gather in small groups and knock on doors. They ask the grown-ups who open the door for them if they are allowed to wish them „frisch und g’sund“ which is an offer that can not be refused. Then each kid takes out a rod and together they „hit“ (no one gets hurt, just pretense) the grown up, chanting
„Frisch und g’sund, frisch und g’sund
g’sund bleiben, lang leben
nix klunzen, nix klagen
bis ich wieder komm euch schlagen.“
(„fresh and healthy, fresh and healthy
may you stay healthy, may you live long
don’t feel sorry for yourself, don’t moan
until I return to flog you.“)
The kids are given a few coins and sweets and ten they leave for the next house.

This is a costum that will proably not see the next century as nowadays the happy crowd of wicked, cruel, cheeky traditionally misbeaving kids is accompanied by an adult person turning the event into something totally awkward.

24.12. Weihnachten

Dezember 24, 2009

Weihnachten (Christmas) is celebrated on December 24th in Autria. When it turns dark in the afternoon Christkindl puts presents under the christmastree. Then a bell rings and all kids start running like mad to catch sight of Chriskindl who of course has already left.
The christmastree is usually a fir decorated with al or a few of the following: candles, candy, christmas ornament balls, Lebkuchen, apples, angel’s hair, stars made of straw or paper.
Many families gather in front of the tree to sing „Stille Nacht“ (Still night). Everyone is dressed nicely, everyone gets presents and a lot of cookies are eaten.

There are various theories concerning Christkindl:
a) Christkindl is baby Jesus
b) Christkindl is a girl in a night-gown
c) Christkindl is an angel
d) Christkindl is friends with Knecht Ruprecht (a Krampus-like guy who plays the bad cop)
e) (worst of all!) Christkindl doesn’t exist (cynics only)

Austrian holidays and festivities: Nikolaus and Krampus

Dezember 5, 2009

5th of December: Krampus
6th of December: Sankt Nikolaus
Nikolaus is a father Christmas like figure. Originally Nikolaus was a bishop somewhere in a now Turkish region. Legend tells us about how he gave pearl necklaces to young girls so that they wouldn’t have to prostitute themselves anymore but live a nice, simple life selling the pearls.
Nikolaus is oftentimes followed by up to 6 Krampusses. Krampus or Knecht Ruprecht is some kind of hairy devil with a long read tongue, carrying chains. Due to his stuid, forceful behaviour he also is some kind of a sex-symbol.
Krampusses are really stupid, dangerous and loud creatures. Luckily they are controlled by Nikolaus dressed as a bishop all in red, carrying a golden bishop’s crozier and a red mitre.

Many archaic costums exist around Nikolaus and Krampus.

Nikolaus secretly brings presents and vanishes unseen
On the evening of december 5th Austrian children put their shoes outside. Some time in the evening they hear a kock on the door. When they step putside, the shoes are filled with nuts, apples, oranges, Lebkuchen (some kind of a cookie spiced with Cardamon and made from rye) and a chocolate Nikolaus or Krampus. (And other stuff, depending on what the parents put inside or around the shoes, like a new pair of skis or an mp3-player)

Krampus sends you a birch
On the evening of december 5th Austrian children put their shoes outside. Unluckily, the children were misbehaving. Therefore, no goodies in the shoes – only coal (nowaydays coal made from sugar). Other present received: Birch with a red ribbon.
Oftentimes the birch is not put in font of the door but outside of the window. „Jemandem die Rute ins Fenster stellen“ (to put a birch onto someone’s window) is a saying deriving from this costum.

Krampus sends you a birch II (grown-ups only)
Male people could express their desire for a certain woman by giving her a birch with a red ribbon together with a really cheeky card (spanking in the context of these Krampus cards means making love, not spanking) . Nowaydays the birch can be surrogated by chocolate, but the cheeky cards stay.

Nikolaus asks about your behaviour
In the evening Nikolaus and the Krampusses (in some towns parents have managed for their kids to only get visits by the good guy, Nikolaus, without the Krampusses bringing terror to their home) knock on the door. Nikolaus carries his usual equipment (red mitre, golden bishop’s crozier) and a huge book. Inside his book he has some kind of Stasi protocol about each kid. Reading out from the book he looks at the kid and says some personal words to each kid. This can go like:
Nikolaus: „Hello Katie. I’ve heard you are a nice little girl wo loves to help her parents in the kitchen. Only that sometimes you steal cookies. You shouldn’t do that, but you sure know that. Anyways, since you are such a good kid, I’ve brought you a nice present. “
It can also work as some really terrifying punishment expedition. Nikolaus, followed by several Krampusses (yanking their chains and jumping up and down in their big, hairy costumes) enters and reads a whole protocol of sin. Nikolaus: „Hello, Ron. Oh, you are such an evil little fellow, I know everything about you. You never obey your parents. You never do your homework. And you even hit your little sister. The Krampus brought you a birch. Next time he’s going to birch you/ take you with him. “ (Does anyone still wonder about why Austrians turn out so weird?)

Nikolaus asks about your behaviour II

see I. Only in church and in front of the whole town.
On the plus side, there are no Krampusses inside the church.

The Krampuslauf (Krampusses run amok.)
I don’t know if this costum exists in all of Austria, I’ve stumbled across it in Salisbury. It slightly resembles the Roman Lupercal and has something to do with fruitfulness and patriarchy.
Setting: Evening. Crowd gathers in a circles. Everyone knows that the Krampusses are going to come. You can hear their chains and their bells (the bells are on their chains or around their necks) from afar. An atmosphere of danger is bulding up. Enter the Krampusses whose goal it is to flog everyone around (preferably women in tight trousers or short skirts who line up for it) with their birches or their chains.
Since these masked people have a certain tendency to overdo their deed and things got out of hand a few times the Krampusses of Salisbury now have large numbers on their fur so that the individual under the mask can be held responsible. Krampusses without numbers are arrested on the spot.
Also see my soon-to-come Perchten entry.

01.11. and 02.11. Allerheiligen

November 14, 2009

Around the time of Halloween Austrians celebrate „Allerheiligen“ and „Allerseelen“ which means „All holy and all saintly (men)“. In fact this (Christian) translation is not the only way to put it as „Allerheiligen“ also means „All hellows“ (which leads back to Halloween).

Allerheiligen is a night to remember the dead. November in Austria is cold, oftentimes misty, sometimes snowy. The weather adds to the slightly sad yet hopeful atmosphere of Allerheiligen. You remember the dead, you mourn them, you gather (lving people only) on he graveyard and afterwards in a restaurant or at a home. Of course there is also mass (Like all Christians Catholics believe in the resurrection of flesh, which means that one day everyone will be alive again like befoe.)
The morning of Allerheiligen (or the day before) people try to pimp their graves. The tombstones are cleaned and wreaths (made of fir) and many candles are put on the graves. Most candles are sold inside red plastic wraps, therefore on the night of Allerheiligen the whole cemetery is in a dim, red light.
Did I mention that I’m very fond of Allerheiligen?

Recently the tradition of Halloween (people dressing up gothic and kids doing fancy dress-parties and „trick or treat“) came to Austria as well. I don’t really like that as we already have Fasching (carneval) for dressing up and molesting people with stupid jokes. Nevertheless I understand the fascination for kids (blackmailing grown-ups for nice treats…. who wouldn’t?).

Austrian customs, festivities and traditions

November 14, 2009

I’m going to introduce you, my dear readers, to various Austrian customs.
I am very fond of all these strange customs containing Christian and pagan, Roman, Slavic, German and Celtic elements (I hope I haven’t left out any important influence?). I am going describe them as I have seen them in the past years, without any scientific or historical research concerning their roots (only guesswork here). Nevertheless I hope to give you a nice insight.

First post: