Springtime is one of the most beautiful times of year in Villach. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, the countryside bursts into color with blooming flowers and budding leaves. The arrival of spring also means that Easter is right around the corner. In the city of Villach, there are lots of Austrian traditions as well as uniquely Carinthian festivities to celebrate Easter.
As a historically Catholic country, Easter is an important holiday in Austria. For many Austrians, the preparations for Easter begin on Ash Wednesday, with 40 days of fasting before the holiday. So when is Easter? Easter takes place on the first full moon after the first day of spring, so the date changes each year. Check your calendars for this year’s date.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week (“Karwoche”) which is the week before Easter Sunday. It is traditional for people to take bouquets of pussy willow (“Palmkätzchen”) with them to church service to be blessed. The blessed bouquets are then placed around the home to protect the family or placed in the fields to yield good crops.
During the week before Easter, the Villach city center hosts a colorful Easter Market. At the market, there are lots of Easter gift items as well as delicious foods from Carinthia. The Easter Market is a great way to spend the afternoon with children. There is a petting zoo and a carousel as well as pony rides and a spring themed railway in front of the Rathaus. The market is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter).
In some parts of Austria, Easter bonfires are lit on the evening before Easter. This tradition dates back to pagan times when people would gather around the fire to recognize the arrival of spring. These days, the availability of Easter bonfires is dependent on the approval of the fire brigade. The Landskron, Pogöriach, and the Maria Gail areas in Villach have held bonfires in the past, so be on the lookout for announcements if you would like to join.
On Easter Sunday, the 40 days of fasting comes to an end. What better way to celebrate than to enjoy a delicious Easter brunch? In Carinthia, the “Osterjause” is the traditional Easter meal that consists of Reindling, ham, horseradish, and dyed Easter eggs. In some Carinthian homes, beef tongue or boiled sausages (“Selchwürsteln”) are served as well as butter stuffed with sweet poppy seeds and raisins. The Osterjause ingredients are brought to a church service in beautiful baskets decorated with an embroidered “Weihkorbdecke” cloth to be blessed. The combination of sweet and savory makes for a delicious meal.
Easter Sunday is the day that many children look forward to since the Easter Bunny (“Osterhase”) visits. The Easter Bunny traditionally hides colorful Easter eggs around the home, and if it is warm enough, outside in the garden. Children also receive sweets and small gifts from the Easter Bunny and family members. Once all of the Easter eggs are found, it is popular to play “Eierpecken”. To play the game, two opponents face one another while holding an egg and knock them against one another. The goal is to crack the opponent’s egg while leaving yours unharmed.
Chelsea Navarro is an American expat from California, USA.
She has lived in Villach with her partner and dog since February, 2016. She enjoys exploring the Austrian wilderness, drinking Villacher beer and traveling around Europe.