Perchtenlauf

Perchtenlauf

January 6
The Perchtenlauf in Austria is usually held on Epiphany, but in some areas it is celebrated at a later date. The Perchten are old masks, usually of witches and fearsome animals, that have been handed down from generation to generation. People wearing the masks run through the village beating drums, ringing bells, singing, shouting, and making as much noise as possible to scare winter away—an ancient custom that can be traced back to pre-Christian times. Another tradition associated with the Perchtenlauf is the cracking of whips—again, an attempt to drive out winter.
Dancing also plays a part in the celebration. The Perchtentanz takes place when the procession of masked figures stops in the main square of the village and everyone begins to dance wildly, making even more noise than before. The Perchten dances of Imst and Thaur in Tirol are particularly well known for their brightly colored old masks. Another notable Perchten pageant takes place in the Gastein Valley village of Bad Gastein in the state of Salzburg.
See also Epiphany (Germany)
CONTACTS:
Austrian National Tourist Office
120 W. 45th St.
P.O. Box 1142
New York, NY 10036
212-944-6880; fax: 212-730-4568
www.austria.info
SOURCES:
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 346