Traditions, culture & events in Santa Maria – Dobbiaco
Deep roots, sunny disposition
A popular and much quoted saying goes: “You’ve only really been where you’ve walked”. That sounds about right, but we would like to add: “It’s only when you’re really immersed in the local culture that you can say you’ve really experienced a place.”
Easy to do in Dobbiaco: you can experience numerous customs, traditions and events in Santa Maria and the surrounding area throughout the year.
Traditions and customs play a major role at the Kirchenwirt. Right Ferdi?
“Olbm a guita Gelegenheit awin zommzisitzn und zi feirn!” *in English: Always a good opportunity to socialise and celebrate.
The pilgrimage church of St. Mary in Santa Maria
… is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the Val Pusteria and was first mentioned in a document in 1262. It was enlarged around 1470 to cope with the large number of pilgrims. The church, built in Gothic style, can be visited daily. The contemplation trail to the little church of San Pietro in Monte also starts from here.
… is a life-size straw puppet that is set up in the village square, especially at church festivals (=Kirta or also Kirchtag). Dressed in the smartest outfit of all, he proudly sits enthroned at the top of a long spruce trunk. Special highlight: the raising of the trunk with combined strength. Once the Kirchtag-Michl is in place, the festival begins. But be careful: you must not let the Michl out of your sight, because, as is tradition, it can be stolen by other neighbouring villages. To make sure this doesn’t happen, a guard is posted.
… is a sinister character that you would rather not meet on a cold winter night. Those who were always good and well-behaved in the past had nothing to fear, they were rewarded by St. Nicholas. But the Krampus visited the naughty ones, and he was by no means as nice. Today things are a bit different, especially in Dobbiaco. Because the largest and oldest Krampuslauf event in the region takes place there, where you are “allowed” to meet around 600 Krampuses, devils and other sinister figures up close – regardless of whether you have been good or not.
The carol singers
… dressed up as the Three Wise Men go from house to house from St. Stephen’s Day to New Year’s Day, singing songs and reciting poems. The carol singers collect donations which are used for charitable projects. When they visit, they chalk the three letters C+M+B on the front door, the initials of the words “Christus mansionem benedicat,” meaning “Christ bless this house”.
Corpus Christi festival, Pentecost, Sacred Heart of Jesus Sunday, Assumption Day – in South Tyrol the many church festivals and holidays are celebrated with processions. Originally, processions were held to plead for a good harvest and protection from natural disasters such as drought or thunderstorms.
Armed with incense and holy water, family members pass through their homes on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Epiphany. Together they banish all evil and ensure that no evil spirit has a chance. With every swing of the incense burner, the positive energy is reinforced and the house is freed from negative influences. A happy tradition happiness that ensures that the new year begins with positive energies and full of protection!
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Fire
On a certain day in summer, usually the first Sunday after Corpus Christi, numerous bonfires in the shape of a heart, crosses and many other symbols are lit on the surrounding mountains and hills, creating an impressive atmosphere in the dark. The tradition goes back to the promise made by freedom fighter Andreas Hofer. In view of the threat posed by Napoleon I’s troops, the Tyrolean estates made a solemn oath in 1796 to entrust the country to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus”. This pledge has been renewed every year since. Andreas Hofer’s troops were surprisingly victorious and Sacred Heart of Jesus Sunday went down in history as a holiday.
The Easter grave
… a custom that can be traced back to the late Middle Ages. Easter tombs in all colours and shapes can be admired in many churches and chapels, especially during Holy Week when the Passion and Resurrection of Christ is around the corner. There is no saving on “special effects”: powdered colours are filled into around 100 glass balls and petroleum lamps are placed behind each ball. The result? An experience for the senses. Every five years this spectacle can be admired in the Mellata-Kirchl chapel in Dobbiaco.
Like to find out more?
Your charming host Ferdi will be happy to entertain you on site with fascinating stories and anecdotes from his beloved homeland. One day he might also take the time to tell you the background story of South Tyrol’s first grapevine in the Conca di Dobbiaco…