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Intangible cultural heritage

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

“Aperschnalzen” in historic Rupertiwinkel
Social practices in Salzburg, inscribed 2013

"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.

The Aperschnalzen is a custom that evolved from the elaborate handling of whips, originating from the times when interaction with animals was an important part of everyday life. There are also interpretations that maintain that the loud cracking of the whips serves to drive the winter away and bring spring and the seeds lying beneath the blanket of snow to life. The term Aper is thus also derived from the Old High German word aprir, meaning “free of snow”. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Aperschnalzen was moved to the carnival season, and competitive whip-cracking experienced a revival.

The individual Passen train regularly and perform twice a year at various whip-cracking competitions. At these events, the group members stand in a row about ten metres apart. The first whip-cracker is the “Aufdraher”, who sets the rhythm. The “Aufdraher” has the lightest whip, and the last member the heaviest. In the two rounds, each whip-cracker cracks nine or eleven times. At the end, all of the participants (often 500-600) join to crack the same rhythm, called the “Pasch”. Using a special point system, seven judges evaluate the acoustic performance of each Passen without seeing the whip-crackers. Held after the local community Aperschnalzen, the big Salzburg-Bavarian Rupertigau whip-cracking competition always takes place on the Sunday following the final Sunday of carnival season. It is held at a different location each year and has an important identity-building function for the region.


Andreas Huber
Walserstraße 3
5071 Wals



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