A burning wheel that is rolling down the hill at night, devil-like creatures that frighten people with bells and iron chains and mysterious white lines on the roads. These scenes sound like horror movies but have very special meanings for Austria and can even be live-changing.
Every country in the world has its own stories, myths and customs. Some have already been forgotten, some, however, are maintained and preserved for centuries. Especially holidays such as Christmas, Pentecost or Easter usually have some special traditions. For the last one, the so-called “Osterrad” is a typical companion in the alpine region of Austria. This wheel, built of oak and straw, is set on fire and then rolled down a hill. If the wheel reaches the bottom of the hill, it indicates, in popular belief, a good harvest.
The so-called “Perchtenlaufen” is far wilder. “Perchten” are mystical figures who look like devils and are especially in December and January up to mischief. However Perchten are not evil beings per se. They make great noise with their bells and chains to frighten the evil spirits of the winter and to herald the start of spring. Almost every region has its own traditional Perchten-characters and stories that are celebrated every year at the “Perchtenlauf”.
When the spring is finally back – love is in the air especially in the rural areas of Austria. In May, we often see white chalk lines on the roads. The so-called “Maistriche” are an ancient tradition to connect couples or at least very familiar people. The Maistrich symbolizes the special bond between the two and through those marks, the whole village knows that these two belong together. For some Austrian was the Maistrich the beginning of a beautiful relationship or even marriage.
Especially when you are abroad, you realize how different customs can be and what traditions are important for countries and cultures. But as different as they are, they all have one thing in common – they bring people together and create a sense of belonging and community.