Fetzenfasching carnival celebrations in Ebensee, Upper Austria.
Fasching (carnival), in Western Austria called "Fas(t)nacht", the period between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Carnival celebrations are characterised by music, dancing, the wearing of masks, masked parades, wearing clothing of the opposite gender, silliness and farcical court trials, the custom of "verkehrte Welt" and a general joie de vivre. The carnival reaches its high point in the last week, beginning on Thursday and continuing through the three "holy days of carnival" (Shrove Sunday through Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). Carnival customs include elements of old peasant culture, masked balls at court and late-medieval, early Renaissance fools' festivals held by tradesmen and guilds.
In spite of the recent tendency toward uniformity to incorporate elements of the Rhenish Carnival (Carnival guilds, "royal couples", parades, and cabaret-like shows) and elements of the Villach Carnival (Carinthia) many local customs in Austria have remained, such as Blochziehen in South-east Austria, the carnival race and bear hunt in the Murtal valley in Styria, the "Fetzen-Fasching" ("Rag Carnival") in Ebensee, the carnival custom in Aussee of wearing the characteristic masks, "Pleß", "Trommelweiber" und "Flinserl", the "Fasching der Vereinigten" in Tamsweg or the carnival dance with its custom of satirically "reprimanding" carnival participants on Rudenkirtag in Sierning near Steyr. Larger parades held in Tyrol every few years are also very popular, named for the characteristic masks to be seen there; the mask names include "Schleicherlaufen" in Telfs, "Schemenlaufen" in Imst, "Schellerlaufen" in Nassereith, "Mullerlaufen" or "Huttlerlaufen" in Thaur und "Wampelerreiten" in Axams. Carnival celebration in urban area, in particular in Vienna, are characterised by dances and balls.
Carnival ends in some areas with a symbolic "Fasching-Begraben" burial ceremony, "Fasching-Verbrennen" burning ceremony or the custom of "Geldbeutelwäsche" ("purse washing") on Ash Wednesday. In parts of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, carnival lasts until "Funkensonntag" (the first Sunday of Lent, also called "Holepfannsonntag" or "Scheibensonntag"), when piles of wood are set on fire, a doll ("Hex", or "witch") is burned and burning wood chips are thrown into the valley Scheibenschlagen).
Literature: A. Dörrer, Tiroler Fasnacht, 1949; F. Grieshofer, F.-Brauchtum, in: Österr. Volkskundeatlas, 5th edition, 1974. - O. Bockhorn, Umzug der "Markter Trommelweiber" in Bad Aussee, 1977; H. Fielhauer, Die "Pleß", 1977 (both educational films of the ÖWF).
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