A while ago I had told you about a lovely Easter holiday I had spent in Carinthia; I was in Villacco that time and I was amazed to see how much people still appreciated this holiday.
I was happy to return to Austria this year, especially to visit an area to the north-east of Klagenfurt, to discover their traditions and habits during the Easter holidays. Austrians are much more religious than us, or rather, than me!
Since I was little Easter has always been a holiday with chocolate eggs with awful presents and big family feasts; but I never respected Lent or any kind of fasting.
This is how I experience Easter, not everyone from Italy or Trieste! While I was in Carinthia I met a girl from the Italian region of Umbria who told me it’s traditional for them to have their Easter meal blessed on the Saturday before.
But let me start my story!
This time I’m in St. Veit, a small town with 12.000 residents, which in the past was capital of Carinthia; a lovely hamlet surrounded by city walls.
The Easter holiday is a very important moment! Everything starts on Saturday with the parade of the Trabanti which has now reached its 650th edition; the guards of the empire parade every 30 minutes, starting from the Town hall, all the way to Stadtpfarrkirch, a church of St. Veit. The tradition says that the guards protected Jesus’ tomb in a period in which Austria was mainly protestant.
At 1pm the parade ends in the main square of the town, with the blessing of people’s famous Easter baskets.
It’s quite emotional to see all the town take part in this event, everyone carrying their Easter baskets covered in embroidered cloths, children and older people too, it’s just lovely! Once the blessing ritual is over everyone picks-up their basket and heads back home for lunch.
Every basket has the family’s Easter breakfast/lunch; each one has something different inside, like Reindling bread (similar to our traditional putizza), deer meat, beer, wine, cold-cuts, boiled eggs, flowers…
But my day isn’t over yet, I get my car and head to Gösseling, a small town few kilometers from St. Veit. Here I’m planning on visiting a small church made in wood from 1664, with a lovely little cemetery close to it; I’m the only foreigner here, and I feel really lucky to have the chance to admire such a unique place. There’s just one problem: for once I feel self-conscious about taking my phone or camera out to take picture… I can’t bring myself to disturb anyone!
Outside the church there’s even a small cannon that now and then fires a few shots; the noise is deafening and echoes though the mountains!
Want to know why? It’s a tradition to fire shots all through Saturday and Easter Sunday. Prepare yourselves because it’s sure to take you by surprise and it will definitely make you jump 😉
But let’s get back to the church. As soon as I arrive I’m welcomed by an altar boy who hands me a candle; it will be lit during the service with the flame passed from person to person. He also announces the beginning of Holy Mass with a type of old instrument which I don’t know the name of; it makes a loud noise, and everyone makes their way into the church. If anyone is a little deaf a few cannon shots followed immediately after.
After mass all the children head out to run around on the lawn, friends chat outside the church and everyone waits for the sun to set behind the castle of Hochosterwitz; at this point some men and women, about twenty in all, hoist some tree trunks on their shoulders and cross the town, the woods and a meadow, heading to a precise point. Every year for Easter it’s tradition to have a bonfire!
But the show isn’t over! The people carrying the tree trunks reach the bonfire, light the wood they carry and head to a nearby meadow where they put on a show, dancing around symmetrically… a wonderful moment! The event left me with a great feeling, a moment filled with warmth and emotion. The day after I wished everyone a Happy Easter, both friends and relatives, something I hadn’t done for ages!
For the first time ever, I really experienced this festivity, I felt very connected with Carinthia’s traditions.
I haven’t told you about them yet, but I didn’t miss out on the traditional Austrian Easter markets either; I went to see the one in the main square of Klagenfurt, that, as well as the traditional painted eggs covered in embroidery, also sells traditional pastries like the Reindling!
Remember there are markets almost everywhere and last year I had written an entire article all about them (the dates have changed but the cities are the same!) Danke und Frohe Ostern!
(and one last thing. This isn’t the end of my story about Carinthia… I’ll tell you a little more about what I discovered about this lovely area in my next article. Stay tuned!)