Culture & Traditions in the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut
Alpine traditions have developed over many centuries und have always been closely connected to the calendar year.
The rural and crafts population had many folklores and traditions. They were marked by superstition, belief, and religion and thus closely connected to ecclesiastical festivals.
In remote mountain valleys like those found in the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut, folkloristic traditions, music, dances, songs, dialect, and traditional dress have all been preserved and absorbed into the fast moving life of today. The valleys were remote, because the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut was only connected to the train line from Attnang-Puchheim – Stainach-Irdning in 1876.
It’s not surprising that our little paradise has been less affected by outside influences than other parts of Austria, which were perhaps located more conveniently. The local population’s predominant inclination towards the old ways has also contributed to this. It is important to realise that the preservation of folklore and traditions in the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut should not be viewed purely in relation to tourism. Traditions survive because they still have their fixed place in the festive calendar of the local population.
Long-standing traditions are so rooted in the psyche of the locals, that to take them out of the context of the calendar just to present them to the guests present at the moment is seen as dangerous. To do so might destroy something that took centuries to emerge. “Krampus” and “Trommelweiber” figures at holiday fairs or organised farmers’ weddings for journalists are a necessary exception.
Guests are always welcome to join in with the Salzkammergut - Ausseerland traditions that coincide with their visit
In our region „Ausseerland“ the calm and serene period before Christmas is celebrated with contemplative events including traditional theatrics around the religious figure St. Nicholas, the so-called “Nikolospiele”. Beautiful, original Christmas markets offer an enjoyable atmosphere, which let increase our pleasant anticipation for the Christmas Eve to come.
Please find an entire overview in the calendar of events.
St. Nicholas, Krampus and Habergeiss
Every year on the 5th of December the silence of the winter night ist broken - the sound of rattling chains, ringing bells, an loud roars accompanies the frightening figures as they move through the darkness.
It´s "Miglotog", as the 5th of December is known in the Ausseerland - Salzkammergut.
This may be an old custom, but it is still very much alive. Some see it as barbaric when they witness the Krampus beat young girls and boys with sticks. Only later will they realise that the predator and the prey know each other and that this is all part of the fun.
Krampus customs vary from place to place. In Altaussee, Bad Aussee and Grundlsee groups of Krampus (known as a Pass) go from house to house, whereas in Pichl-Kainisch, Bad Mitterndorf and Tauplitz they take part in "Nikolospiele" (mystery plays).
St Nicholas Play Bad Mitterndorf
Village chronicles document the fact that the St Nicholas Play has taken place in Bad Mitterndorf for more than 100 years. Over 80 men and boys travel from the village of Krungl to Bad Mitterndorf (about 5 km) performing this traditional mystry play five times.
Bad Mitterndorf is steeped in tradition. The texts from the play, having been around for about 100 years, have retained their original wording to this day. Even though some of the words are difficult for modern ears to understand, the listener is nonetheless conveyed to a less hectic time in yesteryear. The oldest mask is that of Bartl which is more than 200 years old. Particularly impressive are the Strohschab striding before the procession, look out for their metre long horns reaching into the sky, and their whips snapping in time.
The Quartiermacher, Nachtwächter und Schimmelreiter open the St Nicholas play. Bartl carries a basket on his back, filled with fruit and sweets, which Bishop Nicholas and the priest distribute to the children. In the Jedermann play in Bad Mitterndorf, the poor man who wants to confess all his crimes to the priest dies. Unfortunately he was not prepared to repent or reform. Death appears in the form of the grim reaper and reaches into the ground. Two Krampus, representing the power of evil, drag him out of the inn. The Bishop Nicholas had always preached the importance of refraining from sin and being good. Repeating his warning once again before leaving the audience in the company of the Eheteufel (Marriage Devil). This devil tells how he ruins marriages in a rhyming text that reflects old and rural matters. Even Lucifer, barging wildly into the room, speaks about wheat fields and his many helpers. At the end of his gloomy preaching he calls on all his followers. This leads to a lot of confusion in which the spectators take part. Their shrieking and unjustified fear just add to the mayhem. Watch out for the Schmied and the Habergeiß. Finally Bishop Nicholas' hunters bring everything under control and restore order.
The figures and masks can be viewed all year-round in the Heimatmuseum Franz Strick in Bad Mitterndorf (by prior arangement only).
St Nicholas Play Tauplitz
Every year Bishop Nicholas parades with his light and dark entourage, from the village of Klachau to the village square at the centre of Tauplitz. Here the traditional St Nicholas Play is performed twice. The texts from the Tauplitz play are some of the oldest in the country.
About 60 masked characters are involved in this drama - which is also referred to as a Stubenspiel (pub play) or an Umgangsspiel (processional play). Krampus masks, lovingly created by local carvers, include human features.
Men covered in straw, the Schab, lead the procession announcing the Nicholas parade with loud cracking of their "Goassln" (whips).
Bishop Nicholas, riding his stallion (Nikoloroß) to meet the children waiting in Tauplitz is an impressive sight.
The Jedermann scene in the Tauplitzer St Nicholas Play is another popular performance. It features a rather ragged, alcohol afflicted man asking the priest to hear his confession.
What makes these plays special is the diversity of different scenes and characters that take part. The Schuster (shoemaker) and Schneider (tailor) open the proceedings, and Lucifer (the prince of hell) and his dark companions end this unique folk drama.
Tauplitz play characters:
Shoemaker, tailor, summer, winter, straw men, night watchman, hunter, Bishop Nicholas, angel, pastor, Bartl, sacristan, beggar, death, Habergeiß, Nicholas' horse, Jew, horse farmer, blacksmith, marriage demon, Lucifer with 2 devils, Krampus
The figures and masks can be viewed all year round in the Nikolomuseum in the Gasthof Thomahof.
St Nicholas Play Pichl-Kainisch
The origins of the Nikolo Group Kumitz can be traced back to the end of the 18th century. It all started with the young men of the area, dressed in sheepskin fleeces and furry headpieces with red tongues, gathering together on the evening of the 5th of December and parading through the village.
The priest and Nicholas, who instruct and admonish the children with their sermons, and then give them gifts from the white Bartel. The Messner, the Nachtwächter, the Jäger, the Polizist and the Habergeiss are also part of the proceedings.
The straw men, who herald the Rauhnacht (twelth night) with their cracking whips, were added later.
Undoubtedly the main attraction is Lucifer's sermon, and his two companions. His spontaneous lecture on the vices of humanity always amazes the audience.
In the past the Krampus were equipped with fleece masks, today they wear sheepskin headpieces with carved wooden face masks and goat horns.
Lucifer wears a sheepskin headpiece without the carved wooden face mask. Instead his face is painted red.
Carnival in the Ausseerland
Fasching (Carnival) in the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut
Fasching (Carnival) is the 5th season of the Ausseerland – Salzkammergut year. The entire region goes topsy-turvy when people in disguise take over the streets. “Trommelweiber”, “Flinserl” and “Pless” figures dominate the town on Shrove Tuesday and Fasching (Carnival) Monday. A special experience for all guests.
“Ausseer Flinserl” Figures
“Flinserl” are the spring figures of the Ausseer carnival. The clothes of the “Flinserl” are made from natural linen and are embroidered with colourfully shaped patches and ornaments. Many colourful motives entwine around the depictions of figures. The colourful patches themselves are embroidered with hundreds of silver sequins (Flinserl).
One of the most striking figures is the Moor’s head from Venice that is found on many antique “Flinserl” costumes. The magnificent costumes are thought to have come from Venice to Bad Aussee as part of the salt trade.
Working diligently, for an hour every day, it takes between 1 and 1.5 years to make such a costume. A total of 400 and 500 hours of work are needed. Altogether there are some 100 to 120 costumes of this kind.
The actual “Flinserl” parade takes place annually on Shrove Tuesday at 14:00. Starting from Gasthof Blaue Traube the parade headed by the “Flinserl” band and protected by the “Zacherl” figures moves through the village centre to Kurhausplatz square. Numerous spectators watch the parade.
Eventually the parade dissolves and the “Flinserl” figures are surrounded by kids that scream traditional verses (4-liners of ribald humour) towards the “Flinserl” figures and receive nuts and sweets in return.
The “Zacherl” figure ensures that no adults take the sweets.
“Trommelweiber” Drumming Wives
Men dressed in pristine-white night dresses and night bonnets start their performance with the ear-splitting noise of their big drums and other instruments at 08:00 on Carnival Monday and on Shrove Tuesday.
"Real men" in vintage women’s nightdresses play drums and trumpets to drive the winter from the village. In earlier times one believed that the forces of nature, such as winter, could be chased away with noise.
The drumming wives parade through the village on Carnival Monday to the melody of the Ausseer Carnival March. This melody is based on a rhythm that can be heard from all corners of the Ausseerland during the three “holy” carnival days.
Narcissus Festival - Austria´s largest flower festival
30. May to 2. June 2019
In spring the wild narcissi adorn the flower meadows of the Ausseerland - Salzkammergut. They transform the idyllic mountain and lake scenery between Dachstein, Loser and the Toten Gebirge, into a fragrant sea of flowers. A carpet of yellow, white, green as far as the eye can see.
In Ausseerland – Salzkammergut, the white star-shaped narcissi, are in bloom between the middle of May and the middle of June, depending on the altitude. Narcissus Festival, Austria’s largest flower festival, takes place at this time every year.
The festival links the local traditions and friendly hospitality with the natural surroundings of the area. A colourful program of events allows guests to mingle with the local community and admire the sweet-smelling, imaginative figures hand made from narcissi.