Folk Customs/ 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.

At St. Nikola (Upper Austria) a wreath is submerged in the Danube in memory of all persons drowned in the river.

On the first weekend in November (except when it falls on All Saints’! All Souls’ Day) the wine-growers of Perchtoldsdorf (Lower Austria) celebrate their thanksgiving procession with the "Hüterpritschen" (wine-growers’ crown).

The Farmer's Saints

The third of November, the day of St. Hubertus, patron of the hunters, is an occasion for the hunters to celebrate the end of the hunting year with a divine service and blowing of hunting-horns. In the nature park at Geras (Lower Austria) the mass is combined with a St. Hubertus ride, the date sometimes being the Sunday after the third of November. Similar masses are celebrated in some places in Upper Austria (e. g. St. Blasien or Pucking; detailed information is available from the provincial Hunting Associations).

St. Leonard’s day, the 6th of November, was formerly one of the foremost festivals of the farmers, St. Leonard having been regarded as the mightiest and most important Saint in Heaven, who could protect the cattle and thus secure the existence of the farmers. Changes in economic and mental structures have influenced the customs of this day. St. Leonard is still patron of the beasts, now primarily of the horses, and also of the riders as well as of farmers - though the latter hardly need horses any more for their work but nearly exclusively for the sport of riding, be it for their own use or for that of their clients.

In Kundl (Tyrol) on Leonard’s Sunday i. e. the Sunday following the 6th of November, a Leonard’s ride of the farmers and the members of the riding-club is performed in combination with an open air mass and a benediction of the horses. On St. Leonard’s day itself (6th of November), a Leonard mass is said at Pucking and the Leonard ride at Pettenbach-Heiligenleithen (both in Upper Austria) is held.

St. Martin’s day, the 11th of November, is important in more than one respect. With its customs it marks the end of the wine-growers’ year. It is the day of "baptism" of the new wine, in Lower Austria also called "Martiniloben" (Martin’s praise). The Saint is the patron of the province of Burgenland, so the day is the occasion for many official’ feasts in several places, especially at Eisenstadt, the capital of the province. In the caves of many wine-growers in Lower Austria and the Burgenland, the new wine is tasted, and the restaurants have the "Martinigansl" (Martin’s goose) on their menu. Official "wine baptisms" in several wine-growing villages in Lower Austria (Langenlois) and the Burgenland (Podersdorf, Mörbisch, Jois, Oggau) are open to the public.

There are also lantern processions by children on St. Martin’s day. In Bregenz-Oberstadt (Vorarlberg) the Saint’s legend acted out in a St. Martin’s Ride; Martin on horseback shares his cloak with the beggar. Children carrying lanterns accompany him. The lanterns procession is a relatively new custom taken over from Germany, and in Austria mainly performed by the kindergartens. The Bregenz variant was introduced from Augsburg in 1920 and is unique in Austria.

In St. Martin near Feldkirchen (Carinthia) the "Geflügelopfer" (poultry offering) is carried out on St. Martin’s day. At 6 p. m. mass is celebrated, followed by a procession and an auction of chickens, geese, rabbits, etc. on the village square. Though in form very recent (since 1972), the custom is a revival of earlier traditions. The relation between the Saint and the poultry has its origin probably in the simple fact that his feast falls into the traditional slaughter-time.

Slide Down The Barrel

St Leopold is the patron of Lower Austria. As margrave of Austria (1075-1136) he founded inter alia the convent of Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria) where he is buried in the crypt. On St. Leopold’s day, the 15th of November, pilgrimages of men and acolytes arrive at the convent. In addition, many visitors come to the wine-cellars of the convent to attend the "Fasslrutschen" (gliding over a huge wine-barrel).

On the last Sunday in November, which is at the same time the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, the church choirs give concerts and sing in masses. This is connected with the day of St. Cecilia (22nd of November), the patroness of music in general and ecclesiastical music in particular. She is usually represented with a harp or an organ (often a small, portable organ). Some organs remain silent from Cecilia's Sunday until Christmas. Nowadays this Sunday is also called "Christkönigssonntag" (Sunday of Christ the King) and musically enriched especially by the young.

St. Catherine puts an end to dancing

Because of the "closed time" of Advent, formerly St. Catherine’s Day, the 25th of November, marked the end of dance entertainments which were resumed only in Carnival:

"Kathrein stellt den Tanz ein" (Catherine ends dancing). This "suppression of dance", though no longer observed so strictly as in former times, is given emphasis by special events called "Kathreintänze" which in the towns are mostly organized by folk-dance groups and similar societies. In the countryside these Catherine’s dances often take place in restaurants. In Waldzell (Upper Austria) on the 25th of November, the "Zechentanz" with the "Katharina-Bier" takes place ("Zeche" is the traditional name for the group of village youths).

On "Kathreinsonntag", the Sunday following the 25th of November, the salt-miners of lschl (Upper Austria) celebrate their mine-feast, and in the whole region of the "Salzkammergut" about 30 bird-catcher clubs organize an exhibition of various birds. Birdcatching has a long tradition in this region, the time of catching being restricted to the period from the 15th September to the 15th December. The birds are kept in the livingrooms during the winter and then released.

With St. Andrew’s day, the 30th of November, the ecclesiastical year is definitely ended. On Monday and Tuesday near St. Andrew’s day the fourth and last rag-fair of the year, the "Andrämarkt", takes place in Graz, Fröhlichgasse.


Photo: All Saints Day, Holger Motzkau