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    Easter in Austria

    Experience Austria's unique traditions and visit one (or more!) of our colourful Easter markets.

    Austria’s culture, customs and cuisine are colourful all year round, but Easter is when the country really shows off all its bright shades. The most important holiday of the year besides Christmas, it is celebrated in style for several days with parades, markets, plays and traditional delicacies you have to try at least once in your life. 

    No matter what part of Austria you travel to, coloured eggs will be your companions during Easter time. A symbol of life, fertility and rebirth, they are boiled, painted and hidden for children, with those not meant for eating blown out and used on decorations such as catkins. Other traditions you have the chance to experience include Easter markets and the classic “Osterjause” (Easter snack) with ham, eggs and horseradish.

    Easter Traditions in Austria

    Not every region in Austria celebrates Easter the same way. Let us take you on a tour through the different provinces and introduce you to their local traditions, customs, and recipes.

    Women in traditional costumes and the finished "Palmbuschen"
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    SalzburgerLand

    Mount of Olives and Passion of Christ Choral Commemoration

    Every year on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the so-called “Mount of Olives and Passion of Christ Choral Commemoration” takes place in Großarl, a unique event dating back to the Middle Ages. From 8 PM on Thursday to 4 AM on Friday, the farmers of the area sing old Passiontide tunes on the hourly. The following day, it’s the townsmen's turn to take the vocal stage. The songs tell the events of Jesus’s crucifixion and rejoice in the Resurrection.

    Traditional Easter Cribs

    Christmas cribs are common around Austria but SalzburgerLand also has its very own Easter Cribs. Instead of Jesus Christ's birth they show his Stations of the Cross. Locals around the region keep the cribs in their private homes, while visitors can check them out in the yearly Easter exhibition at Salzburger Heimatwerk. It features around 120 handmade cribs, including carved and pottery versions.

    Carrying the votive basket on Holy Saturday in Styria
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    Styria

    "Weihfeuertragen" (Carrying consecrated fire)

    Children from East Styria get up bright and early on Holy Saturday and meet up with their "glow pots" - little metal buckets with long handles and filled with tinder - near the church, where the priest then blesses a burning fire. The hot coals from the consecrated fire are put into the buckets, to light the tinder and carried from house to house. The custom has been around since the early times when there were no matches or lighters, so people couldn't afford to let their fires go out, except for Good Friday. The children arriving first on Holy Saturday were rewarded with gifts.

    Kreuz hoaz’n (Lighting the cross)

    While Easter fires are common in many Austrian provinces, in Eibiswald huge crosses up to 20 metres high and decorated with countless bulbs are being lit up. The tradition dates back to around 1935, with the wooden crosses later replaced by metal ones.

    "Liebstatt" Sunday in Gmunden / Gmunden
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    Upper Austria

    Liebstatt Sunday

    On the fourth Sunday of Lent, the locals in Gmunden get gingerbread hearts for their better halves and loved ones, each of them decorated with love quotes. It all started in 1641 when the Corpus Christi Brotherhood handed out hearts to the poor for the first time. These days, Liebstatt Sunday is celebrated with a mass followed by a parade to the main town square where the tasty hearts are exchanged.

    Oarradeln (Egg cycling)

    In Obertraun, Salzkammergut region, you might encounter a slightly weird yet fun tradition: On the night of Easter Monday, you should better watch your wheels as there are "thieves" lingering around the area! The locals like to "kidnap" everything with tyres and place it somewhere else. Don't be surprised to find a bike on a garage roof the next day and another one on a street lamp.

    Reindling
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    Carinthia

    Easter Reindling

    The Carinthian Reindling is a swirled cake made of yeast dough, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and butter, traditionally enjoyed at Easter. While it's usually a sweet treat served with jam or butter, it also goes well with the Carinthian Easter meal of ham, smoked sausages, and eggs. Every local family prouds itself in having its very own recipe.

    Passion Play at Tresdorf

    At the annual passion play, amateur actors tell the story of Christ, Pilate, Herod, Simon of Cyrene, Judas and the Archangel Gabrial from the ordinary people's point of view. The performance starts on Maundy Thursday at the “Krassnigmühle” and continues at Ulrich’s Kirchl church (modelling as Mount of Olives). On Good Friday, Jesus carries a wooden cross to the church where he prays. According to legend, the passion play protects the village from floods and epidemics.

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    Tirol

    Easter graves

    During Holy Week, many churches in Tyrol don't only cover their crosses with a purple cloth, they turn their whole altars into graves, using a painted backdrop which shows the events surrounding Jesus Christ's death. About 150 churches throughout the province still follow the tradition which can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

    Ram parade in Virgen

    On the first Saturday after Easter, a ram is paraded from Virgen to Obermauern in East Tirol, adorned with flowers and colourful ribbons, and followed by a large crowd. The procession leads to the pilgrimage church of Maria Schnee where the animal is taken around the altar three times and raffled off after the service, with the proceeds going to the church. The origins of this tradition goes back to the Thirty Years’ War, when the inhabitants took a pilgrimage to Lavant to escape the plague, where the ram was solemnly scarified.

    Osterlamm
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    Vienna

    Food blessing at St. Stephen's Cathedral

    On Easter Sunday, Christians around the country get their Easter snacks (typically ham, cheese, bread and sweet treats such as Easter lamb) blessed by their local priests. But where better experience the tradition than at Austria's most famous church? Head to St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna for a festive celebration - and don't forget to bring your very own Easter treats.

    Spring in Vienna Concert

    The traditional Easter concert "Springtime in Vienna" by the Viennese Symphony Orchestra is performed on Easter Sunday at the Musikverein concert hall, and ranks among the highlights of the season every year. It is both a celebration of the holiday and a great introduction to some of the most popular Viennese tunes. Vienna is a hub for classical music and tickets sell out quickly, so make sure to book yours well in advance.

    Stinatzer easter egg (chicken egg)
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    Burgenland

    Stinatz' famous Easter eggs

    In Stinatz in Southern Burgenland, the colourful Easter eggs are scratched with sharp knives, creating intricate engravings in the shells, which are treated with special colours beforehand to make them more resistant for the process. The ancient tradition has been passed down from the Croats in the region for more than 100 years. Traditionally, mainly red, purple or black-coloured eggs were used and then decorated with floral ornaments or religious motives. Today, however, they are a lot more colourful and imaginative.

    Easter Singing

    The little town of Marz is famous for its nightly Easter singers. After the Resurrection Mass on Holiday Saturday, its choir pays a visit to the locals, singing at their homes. In return, they receive sausages and beers as a thank you. It's not uncommon for them to go from door to door all night. The custom is said to date back to the late 19th century.

    Mostviertler Godnküpfi / Mostviertel
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    Lower Austria

    "Godnküpfi" (Godparents' Day)

    Around Easter, Catholics in the Mostviertel region celebrate “Godntag”. On this day, the godparents (called “Godn” in the local lingo) pay a visit to their godchildren, bringing them "Godnküpfi", a sweet delicacy made from tender yeast dough, artfully crafted and in the shape of a croissant. An integral part of the Easter culinary tradition, it is topped with a coin and presented together with Easter eggs. Alongside the traditional ham, the "Godnknüpfi" is eaten on Easter Sunday.

    In die Grean gehen (Going into the green)

    Based on the biblical walk of Jesus' disciples to Emmaus, the locals at Weinviertel region go for a spring walk on Easter Sunday. It is a beloved custom to stop at one of the many Heurigen (wine taverns) for hearty snacks such as meets and spreads, cheeses and a glass of wine to celebrate both Easter and the beginning of spring.

    Holidays on the farm, couple having a snack
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    Vorarlberg

    Gigalar ufhänga (Hanging up roosters)

    Easter is associated with love and fertility, which is taken quite literally in Vorarlberg. On the night of Easter Sunday, young men used to scatter eggshells, nowadays sawdust, in front of the houses of women in their villages. They also put roosters in cages and place them in front of their homes. According to tradition, this is to show the female locals that they are protected from all things evil.

    Easter rattles

    From Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday, wooden rattles are used instead of church bells. In some places, there are rattles placed in the church tower, elsewhere groups of children walk through the villages with their rattles. The tradition was especially popular in Western Austria in early times while it's nowadays well known around the whole country.

    Easter Markets in Austria

    Austria's Easter markets have been around for hundreds of years and are still an integral part of the season.
    Shop for handicrafts, sample all the Easter treats, and celebrate like the locals.

    Painted easter eggs
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    Ostermarkt, Schloss Schönbrunn
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    Vienna

    Vorarlberg

    Eastermarket in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee / Klagenfurt
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    Eastermarket in Schärding
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