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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knoweldge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

National Inventory

Since Austria ratified the Convention, the Austrian Commission for UNESCO has been entrusted with creating a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria. Thanks to their unique qualities, each listed tradition contributes to cultural diversity beyond the nation’s borders and conveys the richness of Austria’s living cultural heritage in an understandable manner.
Applications are accepted throughout the year. For more information on the application process and the criteria for inclusion, click here.

Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Anklöpfeln (knocking on doors) in the Tyrolean Unterland

Anklöpfeln (knocking on doors) in the Tyrolean Unterland

„Anklöpfeln“ (dialect for “to knock”) is a practice cultivated in the Tyrolean lower Inn valley. Here, a group of mostly male singers dress up as shepherds and visit the neighbouring houses on the three Thursdays before Christmas (“knocking nights”).
"Bloch-pulling" in Fiss

"Bloch-pulling" in Fiss

The “bloch-pulling” in Fiss (“bloch” is the long trunk of a stone pine) belongs to the largest carnival traditions in the Alpine region, besides those in Telfs, Imst, Nassereith, Thaur, Axams, Vigo di Fassa and Tramin.
Sword dance of Dürrnberg

Sword dance of Dürrnberg

The sword dance of Dürrnberg has been performed for the past 500 years and is closely linked to the salt refinery and mining industry of Salzburg. This round and chain dance, originally rooted in the medieval tradition of artisans and guild dances, was primarily exercised by miners at guild festivals and other great days. Until today, the sword dance is only performed at special occasions.
The Rag Procession in Ebensee

The Rag Procession in Ebensee

The Ebensee Rag Procession is a carnival procession held each year on Shrove Monday in the Upper Austrian town of Ebensee. The participants, called “rags”, dress up in old women’s clothes with rags sewn to them. They also wear hats made of rags and elaborately carved wooden masks. The most important element of the Rag Procession is what is known as the Austadeln (chiding) of the spectators.
"Perchten" in Gastein

"Perchten" in Gastein

The Gastein Perchten Run is held every four years on one day between New Year’s Day and Epiphany in the area surrounding Bad Gastein and Bad Hofgastein, in Salzburg province. The roughly 140 figures who participate in the run include not only the Three Kings, buffoons, grinders, witches, devils and “Perchten” [characters that are said to derive from the ancient goddess Frau Percha], but also about 30 “cap-wearers”, who bear headdresses often several metres high.
"Lichtbratl" Monday in Bad Ischl

"Lichtbratl" Monday in Bad Ischl

Every year on the Monday following Michaelmas (29 September), the Upper Austrian town of Bad Ischl observes “Lichtbratl” Monday. This occasion has its roots in a custom from earlier times by which masters gave their employees a Bratl (roast pork), because on this day, they had to begin working again by artificial light (German: Licht). Today, it serves as a gathering of all people born in Bad Ischl or having their primary residence there who are celebrating a “round” birthday (50, 60, 70, etc.)…
Songs of the Lovara

Songs of the Lovara

Songs are an important part of the cultural tradition of the Lovara. The name of this sub-group of the Roma people comes from what formerly was their primary trade: “Lovara” means “horse-trader”. Their songs are largely about family and community, but the role of the individual and the earlier lifestyle of the Lovara are also frequent themes. Moreover, the songs serve as a language-storage medium, as they contain typical phrases, metaphors, speech formulas, and even certain expressions that…
Charcoal burning

Charcoal burning

Charcoal burning is a traditional handicraft that originated in agricultural societies and is primarily concerned with the production of charcoal. Using dry distillation, wood is heated under the exclusion of oxygen and charred over a period of weeks, turning it into mostly pure carbon.
"Mullen" and "Matschgern" in the MARTHA villages

"Mullen" and "Matschgern" in the MARTHA villages

The custom of “Mullen” or “Matschgern”, practised in the carnival season in the MARTHA villages (Mühlau, Arzl, Rum, Thaur, and Absam), north of Innsbruck, has a centuries-old tradition. The main figures include witches, “Melcher”, “Spiegeltuxer”, “Zaggler” and “Zottler”, in addition to various minor characters.
The Murau Carnival Run

The Murau Carnival Run

This exhausting and elaborate procession and cadging custom is practised at regular intervals of two to five years on one day of the year, usually Shrove Monday, at several locations in the district of Murau, Styria. The participants progress from farm to farm either by vehicle or on foot and have to overcome obstacles: either climbing over a chain (called a Speng) blocking their way or accepting the challenge to a wrestling match. Distances of up to 30 kilometres are covered on this day. At 7…
Resin extraction in Lower Austria

Resin extraction in Lower Austria

Resin extraction from black pines, also called Austrian pines, has been a common trade for centuries. The surface of the tree trunk is wounded to artificially stimulate the flow of resin. The resin thus collected is then processed in refineries and boiling houses to make turpentine oil and rosin, also known as colophony. Until the second half of the 20th century, these intermediate products served as the basis for the industrial manufacture of paper, lacquer, paint, soap, and many other…
"Roman" - The language of the Romani people of Burgenland

"Roman" - The language of the Romani people of Burgenland

Roman, the language of the Burgenland Roma, is prevalent primarily in the Austrian province of Burgenland and represents an important component of the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Roma people. Roman is a variety of Romani that is spoken exclusively within the territory of Austria. Roman can look back on a 500-year-old tradition and is spoken predominantly within the family environment, but also among friends and other members of the ethnic group.
"Silent Night" - the Christmas carol

"Silent Night" - the Christmas carol

For a great number of people, the song “Silent Night, Holy Night” (original German title: “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!”), composed in 1818, is a focal point of their Christmas Eve celebration, and many even consider it the quintessential Christmas carol. Singing and playing this song together is both encouraged and practised by church communities of various faiths, choirs, singing societies, kindergartens, schools, and other educational institutions.
Transhumance – sheep drive in the Ötztal Alps

Transhumance – sheep drive in the Ötztal Alps

The transhumance in the Ötztal Alps is a special form of sheep drive. The drives traverse the Timmelsjoch (2494m), the Hochjoch (2885m), and the Niederjoch (3017m), and represent the only cross-border transhumance in the Alps that also crosses glaciers. Every year, about 5,000 to 5,500 sheep are driven from South Tyrol up to the Ötz Valley pasture areas in the early summer and back down again in autumn.
Toponyms in Vorarlberg

Toponyms in Vorarlberg

Because land parcels and fields are often located a great distance from farms and villages, their precise geographical designation was of great importance for drawing up contracts, creating route descriptions, and calculating taxes. Over a period of centuries, the resulting toponyms—place names—for specific locations and land parcels became an accepted element of everyday rural life.
The Niglo Procession in Windischgarsten

The Niglo Procession in Windischgarsten

The Niglo Procession on the eve of St Nicholas Day (6 December) is an annual highlight of the Advent season in the Upper Austrian municipality of Windischgarsten. It consists of about 30 people: the night watchman, the “Nigloherr” (a gentleman in city clothes) and the “Niglofrau” (a younger woman wearing a white dress and a crown), several “Nigeln” (masked “Krampus” figures with bells and birch rods fastened to their fur costumes), several angels, the devil, Saint Nicholas, and various…
Viennese coffee house culture

Viennese coffee house culture

The tradition of Viennese coffeehouse culture is characterised by a very special atmosphere. Typical elements of a Viennese coffeehouse are small marble-topped tables on which the coffee is served, Thonet chairs, alcoves, newspaper tables, and interior design details in the style of Historicism. The coffeehouse is a place “in which time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is listed on the bill”.
The salute shooters of Wirling

The salute shooters of Wirling

The "Traditionsschützen Wirling" are presumably the only association in Austria permitted to practise the traditional cannon salute. These shooters perform the ceremonial salute for religious as well as secular festivities. The small cannons, especially constructed for this purpose, are positioned on a hill and fired at precisely determined times, depending on the occasion. It is crucial that the shooters always wait for the echo of the cannon boom, which can take up to twelve seconds, before…
The knowledge of hazel spruce as tone wood

The knowledge of hazel spruce as tone wood

The hazel spruce (“Haselfichte”), with its genetically anchored hazel growth, occurs predominantly in the forests of the Alps above an elevation of 1,200 metres. Due to its specific characteristics, the wood of the hazel spruce has long been used in instrument making, which places the highest demands on the quality of the wood. Only very few wood experts are able to recognise this wood quality in a standing tree.