Anklöpfeln is a unique and dramaturgically structured tradition of knocking on doors which has been documented in the Tyrolean community of Stans since the mid-19th century. It takes place every 10 years on each Saturday during Advent, and involves various figures—such as High Priests, Bacchus, altar servers, donation collectors, and approx. 25 Levites—who move in a procession-like manner to visit certain farms and inns, where they perform their songs.
‘Knocking on doors’ or Anklöpfeln, also known as Anklöckeln or simply Klöckeln in other regions/dialects, is an Advent tradition which is carried out in different forms in several places in historic Tyrol as well as in the neighbouring federal provinces. However, the practice of knocking on doors in Stans differs in numerous respects, as it only occurs every 10 years. Additionally, unusual figures and masks are involved: the entourage, which totals around 30 figures, is led by Urbal, who represents a stereotypical Tyrolean. This figure is followed by around 25 Levites wearing white robes, hats which are tall and pointed, and long beards made of fishbone beard lichen. The group also includes a Bacchus, two altar servers, and the High Priest, who holds a crosier and wears a two-part mitre. They walk from house to house, first performing the Anklöpflerlied (‘the song of those who knock on doors’) and continuing with the Bettlerlied (‘the beggar’s song’). The High Priest is the first to start singing. The Klöckellied (‘knocking song’), which consists of twelve verses, is a musical satire alluding to biblical events as well as the love life of youths in particular. Mundane life continues to be parodied in the following verses of the beggar’s song. Especially during the early 20th century, these songs served to voice criticism of existing circumstances. The Anklöpfler repeat their performance, which lasts approximately 12–14 minutes, several times an evening.
Despite the lengthy intervals, many associations, village members, and institutions are involved in the preparation and carrying out of the custom, thus keeping this tradition alive. The entire village is directly or indirectly involved, which guarantees continuous transmission. For example, the municipality of Stans stores the song book, while the current performers take care of their costumes. Certain associations, such as the choir (practicing the songs) and the fire service (responsible for collecting the fishbone beard lichen), also play their part in the preparations. The custom’s procedure and special characteristics are primarily passed on orally from one generation to the next.