Carnival in South Tyrol: a festival for young and old alike
Carnival has a long tradition in South Tyrol. Against the unique backdrop of the Dolomites and the valleys still covered in snow, there are countless events for revellers, young and old alike, which take place on Fat Thursday (known as “Unsinniger Donnerstag” in South Tyrol) and Shrove Tuesday.
The origins of carnival can be traced back to antiquity. It’s a time of celebration, but above all of renewal. In South Tyrol the highlight of Fat Thursday is the Zusslrennen: in Prato/Prad on the Stilfserjoch ridge, figures dressed in white, adorned with flowers and colourful ribbons, come together for the procession. They strap on cowbells and at every step these ring out, the purpose of which was, according to ancient legends, to expel the dark winter and re-awaken spring and the sun.
The Scheibenschlagen, which takes place on the first Sunday of Lent, is also a custom intended to drive out the winter. Pieces of wood are attached to long rods and held in the fire until they glow. Then they are hurled from a mountain side into the night, and this is how the darkness and coldness of the last nights of winter are driven out.
On Shrove Tuesday, on the other hand, the Egetmann parade is held every odd year. This remarkable carnival custom, the oldest in the whole of the Alps, takes place in the narrow streets of Termeno/Tramin where eerie figures walk in procession and then all assemble. They symbolize the various aspects of the season during which winter loses its power.