Tradition and Customs

The Alta Pusteria is very proud of its traditions and customs:

Regional costumes and music
Regional costumes and music
The regional costumes are a symbol of years gone by and a reminder of the ancestors of the South Tyrolean population. Centuries ago they were symbols for the community and its orderly structures. Today, they are still worn on special occasions. They convey a sense of belonging to the region and its customs.
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Rural regions celebrate their music bands. Lovers of wind and marching music form groups and display their talents at festivals, weddings and processions.
The passion for music in this region also brought forth numerous choirs. The most well-known and possibly the most important one of these is the church choir, which not only enhances religious festivals but also events of all kinds.
The Sternsinger
From the Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day) to New Year people in rural locations wish each other a Happy New Year. In South Tyrol this task is carried out by the Sternsinger, the “star singers”. They move from house to house and delight the inhabitants with songs and poems.
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Using chalk the Sternsinger write the letters C+M+B on the front doors. These are the initials of the Latin words "Christus mansionem benedicat”, may Christ bless this house.
Blessing of Meat around Easter
After 40 days of Lent follows Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection. A basket filled with meat, cheese, bread and eggs is blessed in church.
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The blessed gifts are then eaten on Easter Sunday. The meat symbolises God’s gift, the “body of Christ”. The Easter egg is a symbol for new life through the Resurrection.
The processions
The processions
There are many religious festivals, such as Corpus Christi, Pentecost, the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the Assumption of Our Lady, during which the most holy items are taken out of the church and processed around the villages: Statues, pictures, candlesticks and candles.
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The original purpose of the processions was fervent prayer for a good and rich harvest, protection from drought, thunderstorms and other forces of nature. Processions are colourful events with flags, traditional clothes, wooden statues of saints, the music band and choirs.
The Sacred Heart fires
The Sacred Heart fires
In the night of the Feast of the Sacred Heart fires are lit on the mountains and pastures in the Alta Pusteria and all over South Tyrol.
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In 1796, faced with the danger presented by Napoleon’s soldiers, the Tyrolean estate owners made the solemn promise to dedicate the land to “the most sacred of hearts, Jesus” and to renew this promise every year.
Andreas Hofer later renewed this vow before the battle of Mount Isel against the French and the Bavarians. Surprisingly, Hofer’s troops won and Sacred Heart Sunday was declared a high feast day. To this day mountain fires are lit on that Sunday and light up the South Tyrolean skies. Many of the fires are in the shape of a heart. Other Christian symbols, such as the cross, are also used.
Harvest festival
Harvest festival
As everywhere in the country a successful harvest is celebrated in October with the Harvest festival.
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The festival begins in the morning with a Service of thanksgiving. This is usually followed by concert and dance performances by local bands and folk dance groups. In some regions the top of a tree is decorated with tasty treats, which are then collected by courageous “climbers”.
Almabtrieb (Cattle drive)
Almabtrieb (Cattle drive)
Every year around the middle of September the cattle is ceremoniously driven down from the mountain pastures into the valley and into the winter stables.
The “Michl” of the Fair
The “Michl” of the Fair
This festival has its origins in ancient fertility festivals. In late autumn, after the harvest has been brought in, celebrations began.
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The youths of the village find a tall spruce and tie “Michl”, a straw man wearing traditional clothes at the top of the tree. On a Saturday in October the tree is anchored into the ground. Once this has been accomplished, extensive celebrations follow. A team of guards carefully watches the tree at all times. If the youths from the neighbouring village succeed in stealing the Michl, the village is ridiculed and mocked. On the Sunday the church bells ring out and the tree is taken down.
Kirchtagklopfen
The Kirchtagklopfen, literally “Faire knocking” and locally known as Kirchta krochn, was used as a means of communication between two farms.
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Later it developed into a hobby. Today there are only very few farmers left who practice knocking.
Krampus parade and St. Nicholas
Krampus parade and St. Nicholas
The Krampus parade has pagan origins. Wild looking people would drive out the evil spirits of winter with bell ringing and yelling.
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St. Nicholas, who brings small gifts, was a later addition.
On 6 December St. Nicholas goes from house to house accompanied by an angel, a Krampus and an announcer. St. Nicholas usually wears a long white beard, a red tiara, a long coat and a bishop's crook.
Censing the house on incense nights
On Christmas Eve, the last day of the year and at Epiphany members of the family go through their houses with incense and holy water to drive away all evil.