Austrian Customs and Traditions vary according to the region you’re in. Not everyone in Austria walks around in Lederhosen or a dirndl (close fitting bodice combined with an apron in a different color), although various traditions and celebrations are an integral part of Austria. Yet, go outside of the main cities such as Vienna, Graz and Salzburg, and the country becomes fairly rural, with small communities, which traditionally were and are resistant to cultural change.
Traditions Steeped in The Past
As a result, many old traditions and customs survive. Some of these date back to Celtic and Roman times, others were introduced by Bavarian and Slavic people.
A major influencing factor was the rule over the area by Charlemagne and the introduction of Christianity to the region. This subsequently evolved into the inclusion by the Church of old pagan customs into its own mythology, which ensured the preservation of older customs and tradition and has led to Austrians retained a strong sense of celebration, rituals and symbolism, resulting in many colorful and varied festivities.
Traditions Still Carried On In Daily Lives
An area rich with these traditions is eastern Tyrol and the Salzkammergut, a very picturesque region shared by Salzburg, a good portion of Upper Austria and Styria. Here one of the most colorful customs is the “Glöcklerlauf Procession” put on every year on the 5th of January. Groups of men dressed in white meet at nightfall, wearing broad leather belts with heavy bells and colorful elaborate lanterns on their heads, which are works of art in themselves, tour the streets of the villages. The procession is to shed light during the dark winter months and to bring luck for the new year.
These older rituals carried over from pagan times are intertwined with others that originated with the Catholic church and celebrate the goodness of Christ and giving.
Another tradition you’ll find displayed, especially in these rural communities, is the local tracht (costume), which may be worn on occasions such as weddings, fests and celebrations. In earlier times, the ‘tracht’ identified a person as belonging to a particular group in terms of social and legal status (married, single), origin or trade. Today, you will still see ‘tracht’ being worn with pride in many places, especially the Salzkammergut and other rural communities, although perhaps without some of the meaning of the past.
The regional varieties are pronounced and vary in color combinations, accessories and may include unique hats for men as well as women. For men the typical dress includes the Lederhosen (leather pants), wool socks and rustic shoes, and for women it is the dirndl, which is a tight fitting bodice with a different color apron.
Another popular celebration is Fasching (carnival time), which is the period between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent. Then there is the Christmas season, which is celebrated with much pageantry, glitter and light, especially in the larger cities.
Combine the majestic scenery with Austria’s musical heritage and you have a whole world to discover and enjoy in Austria. Check out the Summer Music Festivals in Austria, a tradition which you’ll find throughout Austria come summer.
A region full of those costumes and traditions is the Salzkammergut. Check it out.
If you have your own memorable experiences with Austrian traditions or celebrations that you think others may enjoy learning about, let us know and we’ll post it.