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Intangible cultural heritage

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

The Traismauer Nativity Play
Performing arts in Lower Austria, inscribed 2021

The Traismauer Nativity Play dates back to the year 1810 and is now one of the last remaining rod puppet theatres in Austria. Up to 30 people are involved in the show, including a choir, vocal soloists, musicians, a host, and a director. Classic stories from the Bible are acted out using 42 wooden figures, and the performance also includes traditional love songs, socially critical songs, and guild songs.

Ferdinand Scheibl, a glove maker from Traismauer, is considered to be the founder of the 1810 nativity play, whose treasury of songs (in dialect) and arrangement are still used today with moderate adjustments. A recording of the nativity play from the early 20th century made it possible for it to be performed each year after its rediscovery in 1957, despite performances being prohibited between 1938 and 1945.

Traditionally, the nativity play is performed over the Christmas period and consists of nine scenes and 28 songs. While the first seven scenes are of a religious nature, the peoples of Traismauer in the year 1810 are brought to light in the final two scenes. These include shepherds, hunters, farmers from Salzburg, and tailors who perform 13 character songs as well as an instructive closing song. The stage required for the 42 figures forms the setting for the nativity play on multiple occasions during the Advent period. 30 people, who take on various roles, such as puppeteers, musicians, light technicians, etc., are involved in the hour-long performance.

Besides the written source from the previous century, knowledge is primarily passed on from one person to the next by means of singing along and repetition. Nowadays, Traismauer’s choral society is responsible for running and organising the Traismauer Nativity Play. Over the past few years, one of this tradition’s most important elements has been the involvement of the audience in the play, particularly by singing along to well-known songs. At the end, the members of the audience are invited to go backstage, where they can meet and talk to the artisans.

The nativity play is an integral part of the Christmas period in Traismauer and unites people from various generations. The nativity play is safeguarded for the next generations thanks to documentation, publicity work (press, web presence), as well as continuous performance.


Gotthard Klaus
3133 Traismauer



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