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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

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…
"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.
Experiential Knowledge Concerning Avalanche Risk Management

Experiential Knowledge Concerning Avalanche Risk Management

Since the very beginning of human beings’ inhabitation of the Alps, it has been necessary to acquire knowledge about avalanches in order to survive there. For the most part, such knowledge has been passed on orally—within families, in schools, and within affected occupational communities (hunters, farmers, etc.). To this day, avalanches cannot be fully predicted or assessed by scientific means. Therefore, experiential knowledge of how to deal with this natural hazard is all the more important.
Making and Wearing of the Linz "Goldhaube"

Making and Wearing of the Linz "Goldhaube"

The version of the "Goldhaube" [Golden Cap] native to Linz is a gold-embroidered piece of headwear that represents the most materially valuable element of Upper Austria’s traditional festive costume for women, and it has been worn on sacred and secular occasions since the beginning of the 19th century. The production of a "Goldhaube" requires between 250 and 300 hours of work as well as manual skill and the necessary knowledge of old handcrafting techniques, which are upheld and passed on by…
Wreath Riding in Weitensfeld

Wreath Riding 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…
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.
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…
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.
"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…
Knowledge concerning the breeding of Lipizzan horses

Knowledge concerning the breeding of Lipizzan horses

Across all of Europe, Lipizzans represent the only performance horse breed that has been raised in the traditional way since the Renaissance. The Lipizzans’ preservation is based on extensive knowledge about breeding, caring for, and training these horses, knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation in a largely oral manner. The bearers of this knowledge in Austria are the employees of the federal stud farm in Piber, who have been breeding Lipizzans for the Spanish Riding…
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…
Indigo Hand Block Printing in the Mühlviertel Region

Indigo Hand Block Printing in the Mühlviertel Region

The highly complex and time-consuming process of indigo hand-printing became established in the region of northern Upper Austria known as the Mühlviertel during the 19th century. Regional craftsmen and craftswomen went abroad to learn this new technique “on the road”. And now, the knowledge of Mühlviertel-style indigo hand block printing is already being passed on to the fourth generation in the Wagner family. Their large collection of handmade wooden patterns exhibits a broad variety of…
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.
Pocket knife-making in Trattenbach

Pocket knife-making in Trattenbach

The Trattenbach pocket knife, a foldable knife that consists of a blade and a lathed wooden handle, has been hand-produced in Trattenbach, upper Austria for nearly 600 years. Many people carry a knife of this type on their persons as a constant companion that gets used for all sorts of things. Making this knife requires detailed knowledge of the materials involved as well as experience in working with steel, wood, and water power.
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…
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 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.
Production of the Molln Jew’s Harp

Production of the Molln Jew’s Harp

The Jew’s harp ("Maultrommel") is a small musical instrument consisting of a metal frame and a steel tongue or reed. With the instrument pressed between the teeth, the flexible steel reed is plucked and vibrates, using the musician’s head as a resonance chamber (see article on "Jew's Harp Playing in Austria"). The Jew’s harp is thought to be of Asian origin, and the existence of a Jew’s harp makers’ guild in Molln is documented as early as the 17th century. Today, there remain only three family…
“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…
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…
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,…
Knowledge of timber rafting on the Upper Drava

Knowledge of timber rafting on the Upper Drava

Every year, six communities build rafts and run them down Austria’s last free-flowing stretch of the Drava in order to keep age-old rafting knowledge alive. Up into the 20th century, the Drava was an important Carinthian west-east transport route and was known as the "Kärntner Holzstraße" [Carinthian Wood Road] for sawmills and, later on, cellulose factories from the 17th century onward. From Upper Carinthia, logs and sawn wood, iron products, and other goods were transported downriver using…