The Lungau locals value tradition and preserve their customs, passing them down from generation to generation. The result is colourful and entertaining with celebrations, events, musical delights and festivals all year round.
The May Tree
In Spring the May Tree is the focus of attention. This celebration involves erecting a tall, decorated tree trunk in a prominent town location. Competitors are invited to cover their hands in sticky glue and climb the trunk to reach the highest point they can in the shortest amount of time. This is of course with much cheering and encouragement from onlookers.
At the end of June in the communities of Zederhaus and Muhr, the festival of Prangstangen is celebrated. The centuries-old tradition is a very religious affair but has it’s roots in farming. According to common belief, a plague of locusts destroyed all vegetation in the region, only daisies survived. The farmers pledged to the Almighty that in His honour, they would create floral poles every year to be spared from a future plight. These floral poles are named the Prangstangen and are wooden poles of 6 to 8 meters in height, weighing as much as 80kg, and decorated with garlands of fresh alpine and meadow flowers.
The flowers are woven into wreaths and wrapped around the poles to create different colour patterns. A single Prangstange requires as many as 50,000 fresh flours and takes around 300 hours of work. Following a procession of the Prangstangen through the town, carried by the villages’s bachelors, the poles are left display in the church until 15th August, at which point they are blessed and carried home to be made into incense which in turn is used to bless the houses and farms on religious occasions.
The biblical Samson figure has been historically documented in the region since 1635 and symbolises and Old Testament figure with superhuman strength. He represents the struggle of the Jews against the Philistines.
The Samson is the emblem of the Lungau and many myths, legends and assumptions are interwoven with this giant character. A Samson figure can be as tall as 6,5m and weighing around 85kg. There are 12 uniquely designed Samsun figures, 10 of which have a home in the Lungau and 2 in neighbouring Styria.
The Samsonman is almost always present at local festivals but there are also dedicated Samson parades across the valley from May to the end of September every year. During the Samson parades and dances, he is born on the shoulders of a young bachelor and, accompanied by the village band and two Samson dwarves, parades and dances his way through the village streets.
At the end of August, an annual shooting competition is held at Prebersee in Tamsweg. The Preber mountain stands 2,740m high with the beautiful Prebersee lake at it’s feet. The surface of the lake has an interesting composition which make this unusual Preberschießen possible for competitors do not shoot at a target, but at the targets reflection in the water. Due to the water’s density the bullet ricochets off and hits the target which is standing on dry land.
Out of interest, in 1957 Walt Disney became interested in the event and tried to reconstruct the lake at Disney World. His efforts were however unrewarded as it would appear that the secrets of Prebesee are know only to mother nature.
The tradition of lighting easter bonfires is, at it’s heart, a pagan festival where in pre-Christian times folk would light a bonfire in honour of the Goddess Ostara.
In the mid- 7th century a church member tried and failed to eradicate the practice. From that time on instead the church consecrated the Easter fire, giving it a Christian flavour.
A further, reportedly true occurrence centres around the tradition. Supposedly when the French were ravaging the Lungau in 1797, the firing of volleys that traditionally accompany the lighting of the Easter fires served to convince invaders they were surrounded on all sides by their enemies and caused them to retreat.
The custom of lighting bonfires at Easter lives on to this day. The bonfire stack ist made up of huge round trunks of wood, skilfully pieced together to for a tower that can reach heights of up to 12 Meters. Locals gather on Easter Saturday at nightfall to light the towers. The tradition also signifies the end of winter.
Christmas Advent Markets
Christmas in Austria begins on the first weekend of Advent and is a time of year for quiet reflection and family togetherness. The cities, local towns and many of the houses are festooned with lights and Christmas decorations and the smell of Glühwein is a prominent feature when wandering the streets. Christmas traditions and regional crafts and delicacies await visitors to the region with numerous advent markets held every week on the run up to Christmas. The marketeers come from all over to offer you their home-baked buscuits and seasonal treats, roasted chestnuts and grilled food, Christmas decorations and home made crafts.
The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is stunning however visitors do not need to travel far to surround themselves with Christmas cheer. The picturesque advent market in St Michael is held on each of the 4 advent weekends with further markets and Christmas festivals held in different locations throughout the valley.
The Krampus Parade
The Krampus tradition is over 500 years old and the Kraumpus characters are unique to each town. The individual masks are carved from wood and display distorted and wicked faces with sharp teeth, gnarled noses and huge horns. The costumes are incredible and figure is complete with a shaggy coat of fur, a heavy staff and cowbells strapped to their backs. In recent history the Krampus custom has been revived and is becoming ever more elaborate.
In the Lungau you can enjoy the annual Krampuslauf where hundreds of Krampus from all over Austria come to run through the streets as a fearsome reminder to be good! St Nicholas is there to keep the Krampus restrained and to reward all the good children with presents…
New Year Fireworks
Where Christmas is a time for quiet reflection, New Year is a time for loud celebration. Fireworks, both public and private displays light up the whole valley and the volleys of rockets and showers of light can be expected to last well into the following day. The displays are quite stunning and it is difficult to know where to look. You do not have to travel far to enjoy the event and Haus Bellevue enjoys a most excellent position for viewing the New Year fireworks.