Winter Traditions in the Bavarian Forest

Of Ghosts, Masks, Whips and Snow Burning

Winter in the Bavarian Forest is long and icy. In former times, it was a hard season for this mostly rural region and people developed many customs and traditions to cope with the darkness and cold. Nowadays, the Bavarian Forest is a winter paradise that attracts skiers, boarders and hikers, but the old traditions live on.

Especially the time between Christmas and 'Fasching' ('Carnival' which is celebrated shortly before Lent starts) was viewed to be a ghastly and grim one. Ghosts and mean wizards were said to be wandering around and to carry out their nefarious deeds. So the intimidated country people thought of ways to shy these away. They did so by carving scary wooden masks and putting on a procession, hoping thus to scare the evil forces away.

Another way to shoo away the ghosts of winter was the 'Goaßlnschnalzn' (cracking a whip). This is still a very vivid tradition throughout Bavaria. Small groups of men in traditional costumes come together and forcefully crack their whips thus producing a noise that does not only impress ghosts.

At the very end of winter, the white season is being dimissed with a traditional burning of the snow. This custom is still being practiced on Mount Großer Arber, the highest mountain of the Bavarian Forest. Formerly, this was mainly a joyful event that awakened the hope for spring, the return of the light and of more ease. In modern times it has become more of a mourning of skiers.

Well-known towns for winter traditions are St. Englmar, Waldkirchen and Frauenau. To learn more about where and when these traditions are being practiced, please contact the service of the Tourismusverband Ostbayern.

 

 

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