So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

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Easter in Lungau – more pagan than Christian?


Our local newspaper ran an article last week about the roots of our traditional Easter fire in the Lungau – and it is something special here. Turns out the fires were originally dedicated to an pagan deity, then the jolly old Catholics came along and tried to squash the tradition, but failed, so took it over -as they did a lot of local stuff. The reason why this persisted here goes back to the 18th century when the french troops were over running this part of Europe and turned up in the Lungau one evening. When they saw all the fires they thought they were more troops, and so turned and fled.  So every Easter Saturday, we have loads of fires, which of course is another excuse for plenty of beer and sausages.



This is a rattle to scare away the evil spirits over the Passion days. A group of kids come around four times, starting on Good Friday at about 4 a.m, then midday with a repeat run on Saturday. It is also that the Church bells are stopped. But Christian?  Still its a nice little earner for the kids as they get sweets and cash for their efforts at waking us up – and they succeeded. Remember the old football rattles but twice as noisy!

But as to hanging eggs on a tree, no idea but I did one anyway!


Another local Austrian tradition is taking a basket to the Easter service, filled with goodies such as butter, eggs and cake and getting it blessed- I wonder where that comes from?  And the colouring of eggs – aren’t these wonderful done by one of our neighbours. It was a shame to eat them, so I photo’d them first!


But then again, at here is recognised, people are in church -even if they don’t quite know why, and it is accepted that the feast is all about Jesus and the resurrection, better than a certain  country where I come from,where all the people see is another chance for gluttony and a long weekend. Though I must admit I did enjoy my chocolate eggs!

Oh and yes, it snowed on the day!  A local saying is green Christmas, white Easter, so all you climate change peeps, this daft weather has happened before!



Earlier post
on this theme.

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The Lungau Weather Cross

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On our recent walk around Göbendorf and Pichl, we found a brand new Weather Cross. These are erected to ask for a blessing on the crops and farms (no comment on daft Catholic beliefs here!).  We saw another in the distance, they all seem to be on the Mariapfarr side of the Lungau.


They are very symbolic and traditionally carry the following symbols, Hammer, pincers, nails, the lance, spear with a sponge (we did think it a sausage at first), ladder, dice, the cockerel, the bleeding heart, the chalice, the bag with the 30 silver coins, with the spears in the shape of Christ‘s arms. This one didn’t seem to have the bag, but instead the face of Christ on a cloth which we read as his garments which were gambled for.  At least no one here in Austria would ever think of suggesting it was in any way offensive, not like in  some stupidly politically correct countries………..



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The World day of Prayer

Ich war fremd und ihr habt mich aufgenommen

I guess I was feeling a little sore from having just lost the job, it had in many ways suited me, my last day in the evening, it was the International day of Women’s prayer.  For some obscure reason it’s always held in the Crypt of the church in Mariapfarr.  No heating, underground and a bit grim.  It’s also the war memorial and there is this stunning crucifix, its draped with pieces of leather which are slowly drooping. Its atmospheric  and sad, just like the loss of war. The service was run by the local Catholic ladies and there were only three of us Protestants there!

The service did go on a bit long and the lady (Barbara) next to me, who had got the bad deal of being next to the damp wall was more than ready to go to the Agape meal. I had brought her and Linda over from home, quite a little gang, it felt like a little bit of serving God for me. There was another car of ladies from Ramingstein and we all sort of congregated together.  As we left the Crypt, a white haired lady who I’ve seen quite a lot around the village came up and grabbed my arm and said how pleased she was to meet me, having already met Dave loads of times in the Garden centre. She was so kind and interested.  So we all sat in a group and tucked into the bread and spreads, there was much excitement about the Quiche, seems no one makes them much here, now I know what to produce to impress folks!  It was a general chat, then we somehow got onto the subject of not sleeping well, someone said salt under the tongue went well. Another how she goes into the kitchen, and another suggested that the best cure was to go to Church, everyone dozed off there sooner or later. Much laughter. We talked about baking, various neighbours , my Wuhlmaus eating the garden.  It is difficult to pick up dialect when there’s so many people were chatting but I felt a part of them.  On the way out one of our group, a little like my Mum, also grabbed my arm for support.  The whole evening had me overwhelmed by the love of these ladies.  It was like being surrounded in a loving, Godly circle and I felt included and loved. Maybe this day of prayer takes many different forms.

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Frohnleichnam or the Feast Corpus Christi – Part two

The morning started out a bit cold so I wore my Trachten jacket over the Dirndl, but when I arrived at the council place, most of the women had either the Festival Tract on which is black, or a dark shawl, I felt I stood out like a sore thumb, even though they said I looked ‘Fesch’ (smart).  I chatted to a friend who’d studied English with me, which helped my nerves.  I couldn’t lose the jacket having come in someone else’s car.  We then got ordered to line up, three abreast, starting on the left foot.  It was easy to follow the band up the hill to the church and we piled in.

The service wasa typical Mass, with lots of bobbing up and down – the Priest even caught the congregation out once and we did a quick down then up!  Loads of incense and clanging bells.  Sadducees I cried inside.  I just couldn’t do the dabbing of the Holy water, the bobbing at the pew end,the genuflection and crossing myself.  I was reminded of how Paul says not to offend those weaker than you in the faith and should observe their customs. Should I make myself as not part of something when I was actually taking part?  Or should I stand up for the long gone persecuted Protestants in the region who suffered for their faith by taking part in this thing but adhering to my beliefs? I don’t know.  When Communion took place I stood aside.  Its seems more effecient than our service  with no wine and a conveyor belt of hosts, quickly over to save time.  Deeply spiritual?  Hmmmmm. Once I calmed down about my bright jacket I managed to relax a bit.

Service over, we lined up outside the church and marched off behind the band and did three stops around the village.  Being on the left, I ended up being on the front as we turned to the left to make a line.  I could hear a couple of women going ‘left, right, no, right left’ behind me and wanted to giggle.  By the third stop, I stopped jumping at the cannon but still couldn’t do the crossing myself.  Maybe they would just put it down to my foreigness! I could agree with the prayers and did so, they were all based on the gospels and simply said Jesus s the bread of life and no more. We marched back to the church through the village where the Priest went back in the church and the Firebrigade, us, the brother hood all marched to the Pub!  I had my photo taken as the new mad foreign member and we all had a free drink.  The band was sitting with us and suddenly took up their instruments and played a polka – turned out you could request a tune.  My neighbour asked for one for me, and I was  sooooo relieved I didnt have to get up and dance! I chatted to others at the table, and then was quiet at others pretty much as I’d be in the UK.  Soon it was time to go and I felt like giggling as I said I can’t come next time as its our Protestant church service!

So I left feeling it was ok.  There was an assumption in all the readings that Jesus is the bread of life, and there was no dogmatic saying you must believe the host actually turns into his body.  I was accepted by the gang.  As tradition as compared to belief it was quite ok.  I think I’ll go again, Harvest festival I have no problems with and when I get the kit I can go with the gang to the more cultural festivals rather than religious. I think for most there, it was custom not faith here. Maybe its a way to make links between the two churches. Another Austrian experience under the belt!

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Frohnleichnam or the Feast of Corpus Christi

Sometimes, I just don’t think things through properly. I’ve been so wanting to get to know people and mix in and thought the Trachtenfrauen was a good group to join.  They were great, even finding me a Dirndl that I can wear until September when there’s a big swop meet and I can get a traditional one.  All the week before the first outing, I guess I was freaking out a bit about wearing this thing in public – I am surgically attached to trousers, having fat legs and am life-long tom boy!   I even kept it secret from Dave so I didn’t have to put it on for him to see it beforehand, what a twit I am!!!!!

The day before, I thought, lets see what this festival is all about.  As I read, my heart sank.  It’s only about one of the main theological differences between Catholics and Protestants, what the dickens am I doing associating  myself with all this?  I’m on the local church PCC,  and I just cannot agree with this festival. It’s not even biblical, some saint wanted to celebrate the event of the first communion being made, and with all the fuss of Easter and Pentecost, asked the local Bishop who agreed to a Mass and Procession. When this Saint died, another asked for it to be extended to all the Catholic church and so it was.  It involves the Priest under a canopy trotting around the village to set points, holding a Monstrance with a host in front of his face.  I don’t think he can see where he’s going at all.  Being Austria, they also shoot the cannon as the priest prays.  Each station has a set reading from the gospels.  They also cart a statue of the Virgin Mary along, which is completely silly -she wasnt even there!  Linda told me earlier it had to be carried by Virgins who had to wear a special outfit…………

I was in a right state by the evening before, and went to Linda for advice.  Quite sanely, she said the group has helped you get the kit, you’ve said you’ll go and you must try it.  Test how you feel and what God is saying to you.  She is right, my neighbour in the group knows I’m Protestant. It was the right decision, so the next morning at 7.30, I was ready to go……….


Ascension and Pentecost

One of the recent Holidays here was for Ascension day, as in when Jesus returned to heaven before he sent the Holy Spirit down on Pentecost – next weekend’s holiday!  Now I don’t hold with all this time and date setting it’s just a man-made thing although we can guess a timescale from the events in the Bible.  There was quite a lot of stuff on the TV on the day here, which I liked. In the UK no one would dare to stand up for the Faith of the Country, they might offend a Muslim  somewhere.  I’ve never heard of a Muslim complaining of things which are often found in their own creed.  It’s the idiotic political correct politicians who cause all our problems –rant over!

 Back to the TV, they were showing a church that is  dedicated to the Ascension and the pictures on the ceilings.  One of which showed one of the Apostles looking heavenwards, at a picture of the soles of a pair of feet!  My first reaction was to giggle but Dave told me off!  Then I thought, well maybe this is a simple way to portray the event, although we’re told he disappeared in clouds.

Its one of those mysteries I suppose is beyond human understanding, although as Science increases more theories come forward and explain things.  How did a man die, resurrect then disappear into heaven, God knows!  At church on Sunday we actually had a good sermon about this time for us as Christians. During this pause  inbetween the two major events we can eagerly await the arrival of the Holy Spirit – the Pastor was forgetting himself a bit about how this is all a marginal calendar.  But what struck me most was that unlike the Apostles at the time, we know whats coming.  We have the sureness. They had only a death, a miracle and an abandonment.  If only they’d know they wouldn’t have had to hide in fear and trembling!