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Tradition in the heart of the Alps

Customs and traditions in Tyrol

Life and day-to-day activities of people in the Alpine area has always been significantly determined by traditions and customs. Centuries have passed and the landscape and the villagescape has changed with the times. Yet customs and traditions remain.

Original customs

Also in our region traditional values and modern knowledge go hand in hand. Unshakably, the old customs defy time and remain deeply rooted in the population. Thus, old traditions do not degenerate into simple tourist attractions, but reflect the historically shaped cultural life in the region. You are invited to visit us, and as a guest to witness the unique hustle and bustle. Get to know the Tyrolean summer customs.

Alpine Pasture Drive

Summer recreation is not only good for people, but also for animals. That's why around 180,000 cattle, sheep, goats and horses are brought to around 2,600 lush alpine pastures in Tyrol every year. The fodder on the alpine pastures is particularly tasty and of the highest quality, and the animals also protect the mountain pastures from running wild. When the warm season draws to a close, people and cattle come down from the mountains again. The homecoming has been celebrated extensively in Tyrol for centuries. If the herd has been spared deaths over the summer, the cows wear colorful flower decorations and bells for the occasion. In the valley, meanwhile, the farmers' wives bake and cook to spoil the homecomers with culinary delights.

"Palmesel" procession

The Hall-Wattens region has a rich cultural past. In the countryside in particular, many customs have been preserved and cultivated right up to the present day. At the end of the middle ages, almost every village had its own palm donkey, which was carried in the palm processions to symbolise the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. The palm procession in the municipality of Thaur is still widely recognised today. The traditional "palm donkey procession" has been taking place there every year for more than 200 years.

"Herz-Jesu" mountain fire

As Napoleon's troops drew ever closer to Tyrol in 1796, the province was put on war alert. A congress was held to discuss how to proceed. The suggestion was made to entrust the country to the protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, hoping for God's help. On 1 June 1796, a promise was made to always commemorate the Feast of the Sacred Heart with a solemn service in future. Eighty years later, mountain fires were also lit for the first time on this occasion. However, the general tradition of mountain fires dates back to pre-Christian times. Primitive peoples attributed a very special meaning to the sun. By lighting fires, they wanted to emulate the power of the sun. So-called "emergency fires", on the other hand, were supposed to banish epidemics.

Life for the people in the Alps has always been hard and characterised by frugality. As beautiful and impressive as the landscape is with its high mountains, it is hard to extract any nourishment from this terrain. The people of the Alps have been living in direct dependence on the natural surroundings and its vagaries.

In the course of time countless traditions resulted directly from this train of thought. Celebrations gave thanks for a plentiful harvest, or for homes, farms, people and cattle being spared any misfortune. Pageants and processions were a way of asking for protection from any harm, or they attempted to drive out evil spirits, darkness and winter and to invoke good spirits and spring. Many of these celebrations are also accompanied by ecclesiastical traditions.

In spite of the increasing technologization of our daily lives and the accompanying autonomy from nature, people have still maintained customs and traditions. To date we have retained a great deal of the customs and these are nurtured in a traditional manner. In the Hall-Wattens region you can take part in these unique events as a guest.

When the tranquillity and the contemplative Christmas period draws to a close and the Christmas trees and cribs, handed down over generations, are taken out of the snugs again, the colourful Carnival celebrations begin in Tyrol. The traditional procession is held in different towns in the Hall-Wattens region each year, during which the old custom of winter – in the guise of the ‘Zottler’ – is taken over by spring – personified by the ‘Tuxer’ – is celebrated. The protagonists of the procession in their elaborate costumes impressively reflect the eternal struggle between good and evil, between light and dark, right and wrong.

The time finally arrives in December every year – forbidding figures proceed through Tyrol and attempt to propitiate winter and drive out the evil winter spirits. The Perchten figures have similarities with Krampus. These men who are dressed in costumes have carved, terrifying masks and carry loud bells which are tied to their bodies in an attempt to drive away the winter. They also beat old barrels and make noise with whatever they have. Perchten so not travel solo, they always go about in packs.

Of all the traditions based around All Saints’ Day, one of the most interesting is ‘Krapfenschnappen’, which takes place in some of the valleys. Young boys wearing white shirts and with skins over their faces, and a hat on their heads, go from house to house – in their hands they hold ‘Schnappers’, a wooden stick which has an animal head, for instance the head of a rooster or a ram. A cord, attached to the animal head, moves its lower jaw, making it chatter and clatter. For doing this, the farmers’ wives give them ‘Krapfen’ – small doughnuts – these are said to be an iconic pastry, symbolic of consecration and which are frequently laid down on graves. By way of a thank-you, the ‘Krapfenschnapper’ recite a poem or sing a song.

Experience tradition up close

Come to Tyrol and immerse yourself in a very special culture of customs and traditions. At Landhotel Der Reschenhof in Mils, we offer you comfortable accommodation and will be happy to provide you with information about the traditional events in the region.