“Fasnacht” & the Tirol Mask Carvers

    In Tirol, the processions marking “Fasnacht” (the Shrovetide carnival) are such wild celebrations that these traditional events are only staged every 3, 4, or even 5 years.

    One stunning example of this carnival tradition is the “Imster Schemenlaufen”, which demands the dedication of a whole city over many months. 900 men – and only men, as elsewhere in Tirol – are actively involved in the events. They hop, leap, dance, make loud noises, and make music throughout the play as it parades through the streets and clamours for attention.

    The Imster Schemenlauf is held only once every 5 years. Often characterized as the turning point of the old winter and the young spring, these masked plays probably date back to the Baroque love of games and the masquerades performed by the church and the nobility. They have since been adopted by the regular citizens and farmers.

    The traditional figures in the procession wear elaborate Shrovetide costumes, which along with wigs, masks, gloves, and hats leave barely any part of the skin uncovered. The masks are eye-catching, highly expressive works of art and differentiate between various characters: the "Scheller", for instance, sports a beard, bushy eyebrows, and a darker skin tone, while the "Roller" embodies a youthful playfulness, with feminine eyes, rosy cheeks, and a smiling mouth.

    Nowhere are these Fasnacht traditions supported with such a passion as in the Tirol, whether it is the ‘Matschgerer’ figures between Innsbruck and Hall or the Schleicherlaufen in Telfs, the Blochziehen in Fiss, the Wampelerreiten in Axams, or the Schellenlaufen in Nassereith. Though all share similar styles of masks and outlandish costumes, each location has a unique appproach to the wild celebration.