Austrian Folklore
Austria is steeped in fascinating customs and folklore. Here are just a few of our favourites

Austrian Folklore Information

Each of the 9 Federal Provinces which form Austria have their own unique customs and folklore. Haus Jagerheim, in Lofer, is situated on the border of the Tirol and Salzbugerland which between them form the heart of the richest area where these traditions and customs are still celebrated. From the almost religious tradition of coffee brewing (reputed to have been discovered in 1663 by Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, a soldiers of the Polish-Habsburg army. Whilst liberating Vienna from a Turkish invasion for warmth he attempted to burn bags of beans which he thought was camel feed. The result?.the dark art of Austrian coffee brewing was born!). To the celebration of the 3 Kings (and a little star) visiting each house in Lofer on 6 January. The warmth and depth of Austrian culture manifests itself throughout the year through its many different celebrations, festivals and customs.

In anticipation of St. Nicholas's visit on the evening of December 5th (before his feast day on the 6th) children leave their shoes on the windowsill or outside their bedroom door. St. Nicholas rewards the children who have been good all year by filling up their shoes with goodies, such as nuts, fruits and sweets..
However the kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent but in Austria he's known as Krampus.
From the afternoon of the 5th through the entire night and most of the 6th the Krampus will rampage through Lofer. Wearing horrifingly demonic carved masks and animal skin costumes with bells and chains you can hear their terrible approach as they clank through the darkness. They also carry long sticks and whips. The chains are thought to be related to the idea of the creatures being bound to their place in the underworld, while the sacks that they carry are to take very bad children away with them. There is a procession of the Krampus and St Nicholas through Lofer in the evening - be warned the Krampus are very aggressive and delight in terrifying the crowd and do tend to use their whips liberally.
Part of the tradition, which is taken very seriously, is that the Krampus are active throughout the night and you should seriously avoid them if you are out and about later on as you will definately be picked on.
In some towns it has become necessary to make the Krampus wear numbers so that the overly reckless ones can be identified and disciplined.
The costumes they wear have often been handed down through the generations and many are both very valuable and truly terrifying.
This Krampus celebration originates back tens of thousands of years to the European practice of mummery during the winter solstice season when villagers across Europe dressed up as animals, wild-men and mythic figures to parade and perform humorous plays. This ancient tradition continues to this day as the primary source for our modern Halloween with its costumes, trick-or-treat, and pagan symbolism. Among the most common figures in these folk rituals were Old Man Winter and the horned Goat-Man — now found in the forms of Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus, and the Devil/Old Nick or the Austrian Krampus.

Avoid unwelcome visitors - don't forget to lock up when you leave!

The Kasmandl is a ghostly, diminutive being with grey hair and a wrinkled face. During the summer he lives outside up in the mountains where he lives off roots, herbs, fruits and small animals such as frogs, snakes and worms..He spends his summer protecting the environment and the dairy cows. In the autumn, when the shepherds and dairy maids finally leave their huts and return to the valley, the Kasmandl will venture into the vacant alpine huts to see what has been left for him as a thank you for his protection and to ensure his goodwill and services for the next summer. These provisions are usualy leftovers e.g cheese, bread, chopped firewood etc. If provisions are not left for him an enraged Kasmandl would probably terrorise the shepherds and scare the cows - a dreadful thought!
According to ancient tradition the huts are left vacant for the Kasmandl from the 11th November (Harvest festival, known as St Martins or Martinmas) until 24th April. On the eve of St.George’s Day (celebrated here one day later than the UK on April 24) the Kasmandl is expelled from the hut by loud noise so that the dairy maids and farmers can re-enter their huts.. Now this ritual takes the form of a procession of traditionally dressed folk carrying loud un-tuneful musical instruments.The children dress in elfish attire and go from house to house singing poems and handing out gifts This celebration is observed in many areas of Austria and in particular the Langau.
Harvest festival in Austria is held on 11th November (Saint Martin's Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Martin, Martinstag or Martinmas, the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours or Martin le Miséricordieux) with celebrations and events including art exhibitions, wine tastings, and live music. “Martinigansl” (roasted goose) is the traditional dish of the season. The goose became a symbol of St. Martin of Tours because of a legend that when trying to avoid being ordained bishop he had hidden in a goose pen, where he was betrayed by the cackling of the geese. On the night before and on the night of Nov 11th children walk in processions carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs.
Epiphany, the Three Kings, and Fasching

The Three Kings
The twelve days of Christmas end with the Feast of Epiphany also called "The Adoration of the Magi" or "The Manifestation of God." Celebrated on January 6, it is known as the day of the Three Kings (or wise men/magi) their names were Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. According to  legend  these three kings saw, on the night when Christ was born, a bright star and followed it to Bethlehem where they found the Christchild and presented it with gold, frankincense and myrrh.The date of the celebration of Christ’s birth fluctuated  up until the Roman church adopted December 25 in the 4th century. Until then January 6 was the day of celebration and was called Epiphany.
On the evening before Three Kings (5th December), traditionally there were prayers and blessed dried herbs would be burnt allowing their aromatic smell to fill the house. Doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the master of the house would write with chalk C + M + B plus the year above the house and barn doors whilst reciting: "Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, behütet uns auch für dieses Jahr, vor Feuer und vor Wassergefahr." ("CMB, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.") C + M + B has traditionally been interpreted as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, according to the Church it stands for "Christus Mansionem Benedictat" (Christ bless this home).
In Lofer on 6th January the custom is continued when children dressed as the three kings, and one lucky child dressed as a large star, go from door to door, singing a Three Kings' carol. For this service they like to receive money or sweets! Formerly the collected donations went to unemployed craftsmen and veterans, today they go to charities of the church or the Third World. Once the gift has been passed over the house receives the chalk blessing which usually now just entails wiping off the previous years date and replacing it with the new one.
New Year time also initiates a carnival season called Fasching, which Is the Roman Catholic Shrovetide. The Fasching period officialy starts on Epiphany and goes on untill Lent culiminating at its highest point of revelry during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday - the French "Mardi Gras" or "Fat Tuesday" falls on the day preceeding Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes in preparation for 40 days of eating only fish and fasting. Lent is a solemn time when Christians remember how Jesus spent 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil. Jesus used this time to prepare for His work by fasting and praying. Lent actually lasts for 46 days as the 40 days exclude Sundays.
There are three different words in German for “Carnival” or “Mardi Gras”: Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht. Alternative titles are Fasnet and Fosnat.
Traditionally, it was not only a feast before Lent but also a time during which the rules and order of daily life were subverted. This gave rise to such customs as handing over the keys of the city to a council of fools or ceremoniously letting women rule. It also inspired noisy costumed parades and masked balls; satirical and often impertinent plays, speeches, and newspaper columns; and generally excessive behaviour—all of which are still common elements of contemporary Carnival time is celebrated throughout the world and typically involves a public celebration, parades and some elements of a circus ie masks and public street party. The celebrations have long been associated with heavy alcohol consumption.and the Lofer celebrations compliy with this association!
Rio de Janeiro's carnival is considered the world's largest, hosting approximately two million participants per day
The term carnival possibly comes from the Latin carnelevamen as carnis levamen (the pleasure of the flesh). The base elements of the Latin word are caro/ carn - 'flesh' and levare 'to put away' ie. before the meat-free fasting of Lent began.

Ten weird Austrian superstitions

1. Eating raw sliced garlic mixed with yoghurt is believed to bring you good luck. We're not sure this would have the desired effect if taken before a first date though. It's also thought to be a powerful cold remedy - which makes more sense, as garlic is believed to stimulate the immune system.
2. Telling someone about your dreams before you drink a glass of water is believed to bring bad luck.
3. Austrians tend to be modest about how successful they are, especially when it comes to money. Perhaps this is because it's traditionally thought to be bad luck to mention how successful you are - and if you are stupid enough to mention it, knock on wood to make sure you don't lose that good fortune.
4. Bad things will happen to you if you sneeze while looking at the new moon. Be careful when sneezing - it's also considered bad luck to sneeze before breakfast.
5. Austrians love nature. And some of them believe that if you have a headache it can be cured by going outside and resting your head against a tree for a few minutes.
6. If a man owns a white horse, a white cow, a white cat AND also happens to carry a white umbrella, most Austrians won't go near him.
7. Traditionally it was considered bad luck to ride behind a bobtailed horse at a funeral - luckily this is something we don't have to worry about so much these days.
8. It is considered unlucky to enter a house with your left foot forward. A tricky one for those of us who have trouble telling their right from their left.
9. There are quite a few superstitions around weddings in Austria. Traditionally, when a man wanted to propose he sent his friends or family members to represent his interests to the bride and her family. If anyone from the two families saw a blind man, a monk, or a pregnant woman before the proposal, the wedding would be doomed since these were all believed to be bad omens. On the other hand, if they saw goats, pigeons, or wolves, these were good omens.
10. In the old days it was considered unlucky for a woman to marry a man with a surname that started with the same letter as hers. A rhyme mothers would tell their daughters went: "To change the name and not the letter, is to change the worst and not the better." An Austrian bride was not even supposed to practice writing her new name before the wedding.