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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

The Amras “Matschgerer”

The Amras “Matschgerer”

According to sources, the custom of the Amras “Matschgerer”, celebrated each year during the carnival season, dates back to the 17th century. This tradition, which has its roots in the village community, has been preserved to the present day despite the annexation of Amras by Innsbruck, the provincial capital, and urban influences. At the centre of the custom is, aside from the processions, above all the performances of the masked figures called “Matschgerer” before small audiences, with certain…
The Vintner’s Crown and the guardian tree in Neustift am Walde

The Vintner’s Crown and the guardian tree in Neustift am Walde

The customs of the vintners in the Lower Austrian town of Neustift am Walde date back to the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780). The Neustift Fair is held annually on the feast day of the village’s patron saint, St. Roch, in August. The centrepiece of the four-day event is the festive procession of the traditional Neustift Vintner’s Crown and the erection of the “Hüterbaum” (“guardian tree”) after the special Holy Mass.
Stinatz Wedding - Stinjačka svadba

Stinatz Wedding - Stinjačka svadba

When they settled in the Southern Burgenland town of Stinatz/Stinjaki in the 16th century, Croats brought specific elements with them that, influenced by regional characteristics as well, made the weddings in this town a testimony to transcultural relations. The wedding custom combines orally transmitted traditions, such as the Stinatz dialect and folk songs, with traditional handicraft techniques like the production of the local (wedding) costumes. This custom illustrates the identity of the…
Traditions of the miners and iron smelters along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styrian Iron Route)

Traditions of the miners and iron smelters along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styrian Iron Route)

The cultural heritage of mine workers, who have their own special dances and songs as well as their own traditional costumes for holidays and celebrations, developed over many centuries along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styria’s segment of the Central European Iron Trail). This heritage lives on today in the still-active mining region near Styria’s Erzberg (Ore Mountain) and reflects the region’s identity. Present-day practices centre on the feast day of St. Barbara (patron saint of miners),…
Candlemas singing in southern Lower Austria

Candlemas singing in southern Lower Austria

Candlemas singing is a cadging custom practiced in the night between 1 and 2 February (Candlemas) in around 20 communities in southern Lower Austria; in each of these communities, one or more groups of singers go from house to house, bringing their felicitations. The house residents thank them afterwards with food and drink and/or monetary donations, which in many places now go to charitable causes. A Candlemas feast is then held during the following few days.
Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt

Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt

Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt is a centuries-old practice carried out above all on the Tag der Fahne [“Flag Day”] and on Umgangssonntag (the Sunday after Corpus Christi), but also to mark other celebrations, in the community of Neckenmarkt. Knowledge concerning its conduct (spoken formulas, flag-throwing technique, role distribution, etc.) is passed on from one generation to the next within the Burschenschaft [local fraternity] responsible for the practice as well as within the general community.
Traditions of the Untergailtaler Kirchtag and traditional costumes in the Untergailtal / Zilski Žegen in Ziljska Noša

Traditions of the Untergailtaler Kirchtag and traditional costumes in the Untergailtal / Zilski Žegen in Ziljska Noša

The type of kermesse fair that take place annually between May to October in numerous communities of the Lower Gail Valley is known as the Untergailtaler Kirchtag / Ziljski žegen. These fairs consist of three main elements: the traditions of going to church, the horseback game Kufenstechen / štehvanje, štehvanje and the Lindentanz / prvi rej [Linden Dance]; the body of relevant autochthonic songs; and the valley’s traditional costumes (Untergailtaler Tracht / Ziljska noša) that are worn by young…
The cattle offering on Saint George’s day

The cattle offering on Saint George’s day

The cattle offering (Viehumtragen) is a votive custom that has been practiced on 23 April (St. George’s Day) at the parish of St. Georgen in the Pinzgau region since time immemorial, being handed down from generation to generation. In this practice, carried out immediately prior to the beginning of the summer alpine pasture season, the agrarian populace (referred to as the Viehleut, lit. “livestock people”) asks St. George for good fortune (Reim) for their cattle by placing selected animal…
Carnival in the Ausseerland region

Carnival in the Ausseerland region

Fasching [Carnival] in the Ausseerland region takes place from Fasching Sunday to Fasching Tuesday. Three main types of figures play significant roles in these festivities: Trommelweiber [Drumwives], Flinserl [Glitterers], and Pless (representing winter). Furthermore, all three days feature so-called “Carnival letters” (Faschingsbriefe) that are read aloud in various establishments that serve food and drink—with blunders, local politics, and local events from the old year satirised in rhymed and…
"Wampelerreiten" in Axams

"Wampelerreiten" in Axams

Wampelerreiten in Axams is done annually on the so-called “nonsensical Thursday” (unsinniger Donnerstag) prior to Fasching [Carnival] Sunday. In focus here are the eponymous Wampeler—young boys and men who wear voluminous white linen shirts stuffed full with hay, lending the Wampeler their Wampe, a colloquial German term for a fat belly. Their adversaries are the Reiter [Riders], who attempt to flip the Wampeler on their backs in order to soil their white shirts.
Kranzelreiten in Weitensfeld

Kranzelreiten in Weitensfeld

The tradition of Wreath Riding (Kranzelreiten) in Weitensfeld, practiced annually at Pentecost, is divided into two parts. On Whit Sunday, the Kranzelreiter [wreath riders] ride from house to house accompanied by a brass band in traditional costumes, singing G’stanzl (humorous four-line dialect songs) about the events of the past year and inviting the houses’ residents to the upcoming event. This is a competition between riders and runners that is held as part of the fair that takes place the…
Perlåggen in the Tyrolean Oberland and Innsbruck regions

Perlåggen in the Tyrolean Oberland and Innsbruck regions

Perlåggen is a card game, nowadays played above all in Tyrol, in which fibbing and misleading one’s opponents are important elements. The players are united in their being speakers of the Tyrolean dialect, which—with its special Perlåggen terminology—is of great importance. This terminology, collectively known as Perlågger-Latein [Perlåggen Latin] or Kårter-Sprech [card player-speak], includes a number of words for certain moves, special cards, and praising or rebuking other players for their…
"Taubenschießen" in Altaussee

"Taubenschießen" in Altaussee

Taubenschießen (lit. “pigeon shooting”) is a sport that used to be widespread, from the North Sea to South Tyrol, but the only places where it is still practiced today are Altaussee and the Bavarian community of Nußdorf am Inn. This social sport—involving at least three shooters and a wooden pigeon—takes place annually from the first Sunday following All Souls until a week before Fasching [Carnival] Sunday, when the members of the corresponding association (the Taubenschützenverein) meet to play…
Setup and visiting of traditional landscape nativity scenes in the Salzkammergut region

Setup and visiting of traditional landscape nativity scenes in the Salzkammergut region

Traditional landscape nativity scenes (Landschaftskrippen) are typical folk-religious nativity scenes depicting the birth of Christ embedded in local landscapes. Over time, originally small scenes developed into entire “landscapes” including hundreds of carved figurines that often filled entire rooms. Even today, people still visit private homes in the Salzkammergut region during the Advent season to view the hundreds of landscape nativity scenes set up each year, a fact that points to the…
Ratcheting during Holy Week

Ratcheting during Holy Week

Ratcheting (Ratschen) is a noisemaking tradition that is practiced in many parts of Austria in various forms during the days preceding Easter. A central element is the so-called Ratsche [ratchet], a mechanical percussion instrument made of wood, the sound of which is meant to replace the tolling of the silent church bells from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. In the most common form of ratcheting, children go through the community at various times, making noise and chanting according to an…
Disc flinging

Disc flinging

Disc flinging (Scheibenschlagen) is practiced in several southern Vorarlberg communities on the first Sunday of Lent. Special discs made of alder or birch are mounted on 70-to-100 cm long hazel branches, made to glow in the so-called Vorfeuer [preliminary fire], and then shot off of the branches with the help of a small wooden ramp built like a tilted bench. In a successful shot, the glowing disc traces a luminous arc through the dark night sky.
The Ram Procession to Obermauern

The Ram Procession to Obermauern

For this annually occurring procession, two separate processions from the communities of Prägraten and Virgen come together in Obermauern. One of these two communities brings along a white ram festively adorned with colourful ribbons and flowers. The entire party then makes for the pilgrimage chapel of Maria Schnee, where the ram is first led around the altar three times. This procession is combined with various rituals such as tying a lock of the ram’s fur to the paschal candle.
Zacchaeus singing in Zirl

Zacchaeus singing in Zirl

Zacchaeus singing (Zachäussingen) in Zirl is an annual fair tradition that takes place on the third Sunday in October starting at 4:30 a.m. Apart from the time of day, a special feature is above all the connection of religious and secular practice. Every year, around 200 people gather on the square in front of the church and sing the Zachäuslied [“Song of Zacchaeus”] along with the church choir and a group of wind players; this song was written during the 18th century by a sacristan from Zirl…
The Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller

The Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller

The Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller is one of the largest celebrations of spring that has been preserved in the Alpine region, and it dates back as far as the 15th century. The name refers to the location of this folk celebration, the so-called Gauderlehen. Its climax is the festive parade that takes place on the first Sunday in May, each year with a different theme such as a historical event. Over 2,000 wearers of traditional costumes from a multitude of regions within the Alps participate.
“Liebstatt” Sunday in Gmunden

“Liebstatt” Sunday in Gmunden

The “Liebstattsonntag” in Gmunden is held every year on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Gmunden’s traditional costume associations, together with the local Goldhaube and headscarf group, meet at 9:00 a.m. and proceed together to the town’s parish church. Following this, a parade forms with its own band and marches to the square in front of the town hall. After a brief greeting and an explanation of the tradition, the associations’ members give gifts of decorated gingerbread hearts to the townspeople…
“Aperschnalzen” in historic Rupertiwinkel

“Aperschnalzen” in historic Rupertiwinkel

Aperschnalzen refers to an over 200-year-old tradition in historic Rupertiwinkel that today is practised in several communities on both sides of the border rivers of Saalach and Salzach—that is, in Bavaria (Germany) and Salzburg (Austria). Between Boxing Day (26 December) and Shrove Tuesday, the Passen (groups of nine people) crack their Goaßln (whips) at their meetings until a certain cadence is achieved.
Delivery of the Freiung at the Maxlaun Market in Niederwölz

Delivery of the Freiung at the Maxlaun Market in Niederwölz

The three-day “Maxlaun Market” is held each year on the second weekend of October in the Styrian village of Niederwölz. The name derives from that of Maximilian, patron saint of the local parish, whose feast day is celebrated on 12 October. In his honour, a festive procession is organised in which the Freiung, an arm carved from black painted wood and holding a festively decorated sword, is carried to the fairgrounds via a traditional route.
Pfunds Brotherhood of the Holy Grave

Pfunds Brotherhood of the Holy Grave

Founded in 1511, the Brotherhood of the Holy Grave (Heiliggrab-Bruderschaft) in Pfunds, Tyrol, has devoted itself to maintaining the tradition of erecting the Holy Grave on the Saturday before Palm Sunday and the 24-hour, uninterrupted worship of the Blessed Sacrament from Good Friday to Holy Saturday. The Brotherhood has always existed independently of the Catholic Church and the respective municipal government. At the same time, it addresses the entire community, including women and young…
Nassereith Carnival - “Schellerlaufen“

Nassereith Carnival - “Schellerlaufen“

The Nassereith Carnival, known since 1951 also as “Schellerlaufen”, is a carnival tradition that takes place every three years in the town of Nassereith, in the district of Imst/Tyrol, on one day between Epiphany (6 January) and Ash Wednesday. The culmination of the Nassereith Carnival is the procession, which is characterised by its splendid colourfulness and typical wooden masks and is conducted according to precise, traditional rules.
Festive practices of the civic guards and ceremonial militias of the district of Murau

Festive practices of the civic guards and ceremonial militias of the district of Murau

Five civic guards and ceremonial militias make up the District Association of Guards in the Styrian district of Murau, in the Austrian province of Styria: the Murau Civic Guard, the Krakaudorf Ceremonial Militia, the Krakauebene Ceremonial Militia, the Ranten Corpus Christi Guard, and the Ceremonial Militia of the Parish of St Peter am Kammersberg. Their historical origins can be traced back to the 17th century. Several times a year, they participate as guards of honour in festive events and…