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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

Bad Mitterndorf Saint Nicholas Play

Bad Mitterndorf Saint Nicholas Play

The Saint Nicholas Play in Bad Mitterndorf is presented each year on 5 December at various locations. The play is acted out in indoor spaces as well as in the form of a procession. The performance was originally held in farmhouses and inns, but since 1959 the event has been presented on Bad Mitterndorf’s main square, thus making it accessible to a wider audience. The Saint Nicholas Play is made up of various figures that form a procession between the performance venues.
The “Steyrer Kripperl” nativity play

The “Steyrer Kripperl” nativity play

The Steyrer Kripperl is one of the German-speaking world’s last remaining plays for rod puppets. It has been performed for over a century in a permanent location, the building known as the Innerberger Stadl, during the Christmas season by over 20 members of the association Heimatpflege Steyr. This practice involves orally passed down texts performed in the dialect spoken in Steyr and original rod puppets that are manipulated by hand.
Round Dancing on ice in Vienna

Round Dancing on ice in Vienna

Round dancing on ice is an on-ice version of ballroom dancing performed on Viennese ice skating rinks within a defined dancing circle. Anyone who possesses the necessary skills can participate, and there is no fixed set of rules. The various sequences of steps can be freely adapted to the rhythm of the music being played, and people dance in couples or in larger groups with alternating partners just like at a Viennese ballroom event.
The Educational and Choral Tradition of the Vienna Boys’ Choir

The Educational and Choral Tradition of the Vienna Boys’ Choir

The original function of the Vienna Boys’ Choir was to perform music—above all sacred music—for the Imperial court. The choir still performs this function today at Sunday morning mass at the Wiener Hofburgkapelle (Vienna Court Chapel). The ca. 100 active Vienna Boys’ Choir members, aged between ten and fourteen, are divided into four choirs (one of which consists of girls). Their artistic tradition is distinguished by a special kind of technical training and the passing on of their typical choir…
Viennese Tuning and Playing Technique for the Zither

Viennese Tuning and Playing Technique for the Zither

Both the stringing and the playing technique associated with the Viennese tuning of the zither arose in mid-19th-century Vienna and were first described in Carl Ignaz Umlauf’s zither treatise of 1859. Viennese zither-tuning and playing technique quickly spread, and with the numerous zither treatises and associations that arose, the Viennese zither eventually became an instrument with a widespread presence among members of the working class. Its tuning and playing technique are still used today…
The Viennese Waltz – Played, Danced, and Sung

The Viennese Waltz – Played, Danced, and Sung

The Viennese waltz is a component of numerous rituals in the life of Austrian society: the strains of the The Blue Danube mark the first moments of the new year, Viennese balls are opened with a waltz preceded by the traditional proclamation “Alles Walzer”, and in many regions of the country, the ”bride’s waltz” is an element of wedding celebrations that goes without saying. The special techniques and mode of interpretation associated with the Viennese waltz are passed on in choirs as well as in…
Laßnitz Folk Plays

Laßnitz Folk Plays

The Laßnitz Folk Plays (Laßnitzer Volksschauspiele) are performed at irregular, multi-year intervals in the village of Steirisch Laßnitz. No one knows when these plays originated or who created them. All of these plays are themed on local customs and medieval beliefs pertaining to the Christian liturgies for Easter and Christmas. Out of an originally large number of plays, only five have been preserved.
Performance Practice at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre

Performance Practice at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre

In many countries, marionette theatre is a tradition that goes back thousands of years and is considered the most highly developed form of puppetry. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre has been devoting itself to this art form since 1913. In order to achieve the most natural motions possible, theatre founder Anton Aicher invented a specific type of horizontal control bar that is occasionally likened to a harp and is still in use today.
The Schleuniger Dance in Abersee

The Schleuniger Dance in Abersee

The Schleuniger – old manuscripts also refer to it as the Schleiniger – is a form of music and dance found exclusively in the Salzkammergut region. A special local variant of the Schleuniger can be found around the Wolfgangsee, which is to say: in the communities of Abersee, Strobl, St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen. With a duration of ten to twelve minutes, this so-called Aberseer Schleuniger is a very long and complex dance.
The Öblarner Krampusspiel – Krampus Play in Öblarn

The Öblarner Krampusspiel – Krampus Play in Öblarn

As one of the last surviving Styrian folk theatre traditions, the Öblarner Krampusspiel [Öblarn Krampus Play] is performed by amateur thespians every year in early December in farmhouse parlours as well as publicly on the market square. The scripts for the play’s characters—such as the Hunters, Lucifer and his retinue, the Smith, the Habergoas (a demon with a goat’s head) and Death—are learned by way of a largely oral tradition and were first put to paper during the 1980s. The Öblarner…
The Reither Nikolausspiel – St. Nicholas Play in Reith

The Reither Nikolausspiel – St. Nicholas Play in Reith

The St. Nicholas Play in Reith (Reither Nikolausspiel) is held every seven years in the village of Reith im Alpbachtal. The Reither Nikolausspiel consists of twelve scenes (referred to as Bilder [lit. “pictures,” an antiquated term for “scenes”]), in which the poor’s defiance of the rich and powerful, as well as the battle between good and evil, are portrayed. Until 1919, this fundamentally religious and pedagogical dramatic work was performed in private homes, with local lay-performers going…
Traunkirchner Mordsgschicht – Carnival Singing in Traunkirchen

Traunkirchner Mordsgschicht – Carnival Singing in Traunkirchen

The Traunkirchner Mordsgschicht (Traunkirchen’s “murderously funny story”) is a narrative musical performance in the style of a “Moritat,” a form of cantastoria or bench song. Today, this tradition—originally practiced throughout the Salzkammergut region—can be found only in Traunkirchen. On the final Sunday before Lent, the singers parade from inn to inn wearing top hats and tailcoats to present humorous moments from the village’s past year. In return, the performers accept food and drink,…
Innviertel Landler

Innviertel Landler

The history of Upper Austria’s Innviertel Landler dance is inextricably linked to the Innviertel Zechen. These were originally rural fellowships of boys that displayed particular artistry in the Zechentanz—a combination of dance (the Eicht), music, poetry, and song. The melody, the special yodel (Almer) at the end, and the “distorted” rhythm in ¾ time make the Innviertel Landler a special musical form within the Austrian Ländler family.
Metnitz Kinisingen

Metnitz Kinisingen

At the Metnitz “Kini Carolling” (Kinisingen), between New Year’s and 6 January (Epiphany) a group of singers (called Rotte), together with the Three Kings and the Star-Bearer, process from farm to farm through Carinthia’s entire Metnitz Valley and sing the 17 verses of the “Kini Song”. The Kings and the Star-Bearer perform a small drama in which they move wordlessly according to precisely defined rules. Best wishes for the New Year are also recited. Following the performance, the singers are…
Passion Play Erl

Passion Play Erl

For the past 400 years, Tyrol’s traditional Passion Play Erl has been held every six years, an event that has its roots in Christian Easter dramas. Despite the fact that the Passion Play now enjoys international renown and attracts throngs of visitors, it is particularly the residents of the town of Erl who are responsible for the preservation of this traditional Christian dramatic event. It is not professional actresses and actors who regularly take the stage here but rather the townspeople.
The Pinzgau Tresterer dance of the Salzburg Alpinia

The Pinzgau Tresterer dance of the Salzburg Alpinia

The Pinzgau Tresterer Dance (Tresterertanz) is a special, regional form of the so-called Schönperchtenlaufen. This circular dance with hopping and stamping steps, executed in traditional costume, is performed every year on 5 January at dusk by groups (Tresterer) progressing from farm to farm in the area around the city of Salzburg. The visit by the dancers and musicians is unannounced. The lead dancer informs the occupants of the house about the custom by performing a figure eight with the…
“Rudentanz“ in Sierning

“Rudentanz“ in Sierning

Every Shrove Tuesday for the past 200 years, the “Sierninger Rudenkirtag” has been held in the Upper Austrian town of Sierning, a fair at which the Traunviertel Ruden (groups of four to eight dancing couples) perform their dance called the Landler. In addition to music and dance, a special focus is placed on the four- to eight-line rhymes that are newly composed each year. These mocking or critical verses include references to local, national, and global political and social events and are…
Jew's harp playing in Austria

Jew's harp playing in Austria

The Jew’s harp is a bourdon instrument that can be made of various materials, including metal and bamboo. Jew’s harp playing is among the oldest musical practices of mankind and is particularly widespread among the Turkic peoples of Asia and in Europe, with centres of production and playing evolving with their own individual characteristics. Since the Middle Ages, for example, the Upper Austrian town of Molln has had its own guild of Jew’s harp makers (see “Production of the Molln Jew’s Harp”).
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.
Christmas caroling in Heiligenblut

Christmas caroling in Heiligenblut

The 16th century tradition of Christmas caroling in Heiligenblut (Carinthia) has been kept alive until today mostly in its original form. The star song (“Sternlied”) or the blessing of houses using the “CMB” saying (“Christus Mansionem Benedicat” – May Christ bless this house) which is written in chalk over the front door, are still fundamental elements of this tradition.
The Austrian folk dance movement

The Austrian folk dance movement

The Austrian folk dance movement is rooted in the research and collecting activities of a number of people at the end of the 19th century and borrowed from rural traditions that have survived only in fragments. Simultaneously with the systematisation and recording of the various dances, the orientation toward characteristic Austrian dances began. These dances were not only collected and preserved for posterity; they were also increasingly taught and thus saved from extinction.
Christmas caroling in Tyrol´s Villgraten Valley (Inner and Outer Villgraten)

Christmas caroling in Tyrol´s Villgraten Valley (Inner and Outer Villgraten)

Every year between Christmas and the Epiphany, the traditional Christmas caroling takes places in the Tyrolian Villgraten Valley. For two days, two groups wander from house to house to sing traditional New Year’s carols.
The Viennese Dudler

The Viennese Dudler

The Viennese-style yodeling is an important element of the local musical culture. Tootling (German Dudeln) is an important element of the Viennese singing culture. Its origins go back to the beginning of the 19th century, when Tyrolean singers’ societies toured European cities to introduce the population to the tradition of yodeling.