Harry Schiffer

Culture & Traditions in the Murau-Murtal

Culture and tradition with classic and modern art invigorate the Murau-Murtal region in the towns of Judenburg, Knittelfeld and Murau. Readings, exhibitions and lectures are a fixture in the Murau-Murtal holiday region. Traditions are of great importance in Styria and the Murau-Murtal.


In the charming old town of Murau, the capital of the Styrian wood industry, you can follow in the steps of history. The higher and smaller the village, the more rustic and vibrant the traditions.

The cattle drive marks the end of the mountain pasture grazing period. A beautiful sight: cattle adorned with colourful garlands and large bells.

It is also worth seeing the giant Samson, who is carried through Murau every year on 15 August accompanied by a loud gun salute from the town guard. Another tradition is the rather mystical custom of smoking out houses and animal pens to keep evil at bay during the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Cattle drives in the Murau-Murtal region

The cattle drive is a festival of thanksgiving amongst farmers, dairymen and herders, celebrating when the healthy cattle return to the stables from the pastures. The people go to great effort to decorate the animals beautifully. The "jewellery" consists of mountain pine, spruce and juniper branches as well as alpine flowers decorated with colourful ribbons, tinsel and mirrors. Bells are often hung around the necks of the cows. The bells sound different depending on the rank of the cow. Decorating the cattle during a cattle drive was first documented in a Pustertal inventory of 1746, but the tradition may go back to much older times.

Styria's biggest cattle drive takes place between the Lachtal and the Hochegg - around 450 cattle are driven from the surrounding pastures directly to the Hochegg. The cattle drives in Gaal and Rachau are also known for their beautifully decorated animals.

 

Rauhnächte (Twelve Days of Christmas) “Smoking out” tradition

Smoking out houses and animal pens is still “obligatory” for those who live on mountain farms. This custom, which is carried out during the dark nights of the Twelve Days of Christmas, is said to ward off evil spirits and make sure that the animals and land thrive and flourish. To this day countrywomen do not dry their laundry outside after dusk as they are afraid of attracting ghosts into the house.

Women and children are not meant to be alone on the streets after dark. People are not allowed to play cards.

Depending on the region, the number of nights on which this tradition takes place varies between three and twelve. The four most important days are 21 December, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Epiphany.