Folk Customs

January

Entering the New Year, with church bells ringing and waltz music swinging. January 1st, New Year. In Vienna, New Year is celebrated at midnight by a big feast in St. Stephen’s Square and the streets of the Inner City. A map and a programme of the events are published in the daily newspapers.

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February

As January is characterized by New Year and Epiphany the most important customs of February are connected with carnival: in Western Austria called "Fasnacht", elsewhere known as "Fasching". The first traditional date, however, is Candlemas on February 2nd, with, for example, the Candlemas fiddling in Ligist (Styria).

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March & April

Easter is a movable feast depending on the first full moon in Spring, and therefore can either fall in March or April. Customs connected with Lent and Easter are the most important ones in these months.

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May & June

May has a spectacular beginning, in which the customs have different historical und ideological connections. May the first is the traditional date for erecting the maypole ("Maibaum"). The same day, a national holiday since 1919, is also associated with the May marches (from 1890) of the Socialist party especially for the working class.

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July & August

In the middle of July the "Gassatengehen" of the Turkish pipers, a nightlight procession accompanied by music, takes place at Waidhofen an der Ybbs (Lower Austria). The men forming the procession (in former times all of them were scythe- smiths) wear the red fez, the Turkish or Muslim headgear, and play the "Turkish" march, which in fact derives from the "Grenadiers' march of the pipers" played in the Austrian army during the reign of Maria Theresa (1740 - 1780).

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September

September is not only a month of markets and feasts, but also of the return from the mountain pastures and partly already of thanksgiving (which, however, is often celebrated in October).

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October

On the second Sunday in October the village of Zirl (Tyrol) has its kermis, and on this occasion the "Zachäussingen" (Zachaeus-singing, after the publican converted by Christ) is performed: Each stanza of the Zachaeus-song "O ye mountains, help us mourn the sinner’s downfall" is followed by a stanza of the song "Only once in my life I would like to see my native land again". The formerly widespread custom is attested for Zirl since 1723. Singing songs of repetence like the Zachaeus-song was very common in the 17th century, the period of the Plague.

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November

Though the first of November is celebrated as All Saint’s Day, i. e. the feast of the Saints and Beatified in Heaven, the day, under the influence of the immediately following All Souls Day, has widely assumed the function of the date for remembering the deceased, including private visits to the graves of one’s relatives as well as public events such as memorial services for the victims of the two World Wars.

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December

This month is characterized by customs and events of the Advent and Christmas seasons, both consisting of private and public elements. Though publications on Advent and Christmas usually stress the family aspect which also colours the image of these feasts, the public side should neither be overlooked nor underestimated.

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