The quiet, reflective Christmas period is drawing to an end. While those precious cribs passed down through the generations are slowly being stowed away, preparations for the colourful Shrovetide festivities are already getting underway.
The villages in the Hall-Wattens region take turns in holding a traditional procession, where in accordance with the old custom, winter - in the form of the "Zottlers" - is forced out by spring, embodied by the "Tuxers". Shrovetide activities used to be regarded as a public nuisance. But despite many bans, they were never forgotten, demonstrating how deeply rooted in the people's minds this custom was … and still is. The extravagantly-clad protagonists in the procession dramatically symbolise the eternal struggle between good and evil, between light and dark (right and wrong).
This conflict between the Zottlers and the Tuxers, bear and beater, to name but a few, used to be played out in the farmhouse. Only in the 20th century did the custom spill out on to the streets, where it could be encountered by a wider audience. Reference is made in the "Tiroler Volksboten" newspaper on 4.2.1926 to a Matschgerer procession.
Shrovetide has still not lost any of its magnetism. Mils, Volders and Absam have the "Matschgerer", Thaur the "Muller", Baumkirchen the "Lallen", Wattens the "Schellenschlager" and various traditional floats take part in the procession every year, thereby bringing folklore, humour and entertainment back to village life.
Music also plays its part, as brass bands and many other musical performers get the opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
With his tall head decoration weighing approx. 12kg, garlanded by feathers and flowers and with a large mirror in the middle, the Spiegeltuxer represents spring and the approaching summer. The purpose of mirror is to drive away the evil winter spirits.
The harshness and cold temperatures of winter are represented by these figures.
The violent movements - stomping, trampling and dancing - emphasise winter's ferocity. With every movement, the colourful jute threads hanging off the costumes fly up into the air. The head-dress consists of peacock feathers and fur.
These Shrovetide figures represent the autumn, in other words, winter is not long gone. These gaudy costumes with their colourful tassels and bells are intended to keep winter away. Black cock feathers and a hat bedecked with fox or hare fur form the head-dress.
The word "Kraneter" comes from the German word Kranewitterstauden meaning juniper. They wear serious-faced masks and carry a long stick. The costume with a total weight of approx. 40-45 kg is densely covered with juniper twigs. Kraneters, representing winter, are always accompanied by a witch.
The Hexen (witches)
These are figures representing winter and are typical of the Thaur carnival procession.
The bear, representing winter, is always accompanied by a beater who is attempting to train it, but is having great difficulty. In the end, however, the beater overcomes the bear and successfully drives winter away.