in Salzburg's Lungau
According to folk tradition, the Kasmandl is a little man with gray hair and a wrinkled face. During the summer, he resides in the mountains where he lives off roots and herbs. In the autumn, when the shepherds or dairymaids finally return from mountain pastures to the valley at Martinmas (11.11.), the Kasmandl comes to the alpine huts to gather what was left behind. It is from this that he will survive through the long winter months. On the eve of St. George’s Day (celebrated here on April 24), the Kasmandl is expelled by loud noise. Only then do the dairymaids and farmers dare to reenter their huts.
This tradition is the origin of the Kasmandl Walk we see today: On the eve of Martinmas, children go from house to house dressed in costume. They recite poems, sing songs of the hill country, and hand out sweets as a thank-you for the tips they have received.
Krampus and Nicholas
Figures, frightening, grotesque faces, and the wild ringing of bells. Our ears listen intensely to the heavy drone of cowbells which these sinister fellows have strapped to their backs. And then you catch a glimpse of them: the silhouettes of imposing figures. The wood-carved masks display distorted, wicked faces. Sharp teeth, a gnarled nose, and horns twisted in all directions complete the horror. With mask and horns, he towers above all by at least a head. Wrapped in a shaggy coat and with a heavy staff in hand, the Krampus is similar to a fearsome monster.
Today, many young people have revived this 500 year old tradition and the Krampus parades have become more elaborate: with specially-made floats, loud music, and fire.
They obey St. Nicholas’ every word
The tradition of the Krampus parade goes back to kind-hearted Bishop Nicholas who, on the night of December 5th and 6th, makes his way through the streets sporting a shepherd’s staff, miter, and magnificent garments. His helpers are an angel holding a book with the good deeds of all people, and a wizened old man with a basket full of presents, the so-called “good kids’ basket”. And of course, there is also Krampus, an emissary of evil.
Every St. Nicholas is accompanied by 6 to 8 Krampus figures. While Nicholas rewards the good children and gives them candy from the “good kids’ basket”, Krampus punishes those who have been naughty. Only Nicholas with his shepherd’s staff can actually restrain Krampus.
Back in pre-Christian times, people would light bonfires in honor of the goddess Ostara, and paid homage to her with a festival of lights. In 739, St. Boniface recounted the Easter bonfires of the Germanic peoples, a custom he diligently tried to eradicate. From that time on, the church actually consecrated the Easter bonfire and thus gave it a Christian flavor. The custom of the Easter bonfire is still continued to this day.
Lungau Easter bonfires also have ties to the following, supposedly true occurrence: When the French were ravaging the Lungau in 1797, they were so surprised by the firing of the volleys that traditionally accompany this event, they thought they were surrounded by enemies on all sides, taking flight immediately.
The logs, made of logs, up to 12 meters high and filled with brushwood twigs, express the desire for the reawakening of nature as well as the joy of the resurrection of the Lord. The Lungau Easter bonfires are kindled each year shortly after dark from Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday.
The palm bushes, made from boxwood and willow branches, remind us of the Palm Sunday procession and the palm branches which were strewn as Christ entered Jerusalem. After the blessing, they are treated as a symbol of protection and fertility, either borne out into the garden or field, or kept in the house to be used on Christmas Eve or New Year`s as incense.
EAster Eggs "Grawirlacheier"
A special highlight of this time of year in the Lungau is the dying of so-called "Grawirlacheier". In the process, a hard-boiled egg is laid on a "Grawirlach", a linen cloth coated with shaggy, green chervil, "Kasbleamen" (crocus) and onion skin, wrapped up and tied on both ends, then laid in the egg dye for a few minutes. The result is especially beautiful, with unique patterns appearing on the eggs. Easter eggs are a symbol of fertility and new beginnings.
These are generally schoolchildren, who are out and about from Good Friday until Holy Saturday with their scraping, clattering wood-carved rattles, proclaiming their message in front of homes and all the while singing: "Wir ratschen, wir ratschen den englischen Gruas, den jeder Christgläubige betn muas. Foits nida auf enkane Knia, bets drei Vaterunser und a Ave Maria" (essentially: "Drop to your knees, pray 3 'Our Fathers' and an 'Ave Maria'"). On the last day, the sing: "Wir ratschen und ratschen zum letzten Mal z`samm, weil die Glocken sind wieder da aus Rom." Then they go to the houses and ask for a small gift, which is generally a red egg, sweets and a bit of money.
Gones Race on Easter monday
In this ancient game, lads and lasses line up as couples in a single row. A boy - known as the "Gones" (gander) - calls out "Gones, Gones, kikeriki - des letzte Paarl her für mi". The couple then run away separately and if the "Gones" manages to catch the girl, the boy who loses becomes the new "Gones".