SACRED HEART FIRES IN JUNE
In June, Sacred Heart fires are lit all over Tyrol. This tradition goes back to the Sacred Heart oath from 1796, which is said to have established Tyrolean unity in the fight against the French and Bavarians. Back then, the mountain fires were lit to symbolize the oath. The 16 May is the feast day of John of Nepomuk, who gives his name to the Obergurgl church. There is a celebratory mass followed by pre-lunch drinks. The traditional Gurgler Sängerfest (Gurgler Singing Festival) takes place on 15 August and features village processions, pre-lunch drinks and a village festival on the Obergurgl village square.
ADVENT IN OBERGURGL
One very impressive custom is the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter during Advent in Obergurgl. The priest blesses the images and statues of Mary that are then carried from house to house. The statue of Mary stays over night at each house. Prayers are said and hymns are sung. Children receive sweets and a piece of fruit. During Advent, people go from house to house delivering the joyous news of the arrival of Jesus Christ. Members of the Gurgl Male Voice Choir dress up as shepherds and sing Christmas carols. On 5 December the Krampus’ and Nikolaus go from house to house. The Krampus parade featuring elaborate masks, cow bells and cloaks made of sheep or goatskin is a popular attraction throughout the entire Ötz Valley. The Krampus’ carry switches, which they swipe at children and adults to scare them and make them all behave. During the run-up to Christmas, the entire Ötz Valley enjoys the Christmas markets where many old customs are really cultivated. Many stands selling Ötz Valley products, textiles, wooden handicrafts and decorations as well as foodstuffs invite you to look and taste.
OBERGURGL AND THE GEMAT
The 26 December is the day of the Büebm-Gemat. A group of young, unmarried men look for a house where one or more young women live and ask them if they can come to Gemat. Alcohol-consumption is high at this event. The traditional Gemat day for children is 8 January. The children go from house to house with a pillow case and collect a pretzel, an apple and a coin from each house they visit. To thank the house owner, they wish them a Happy New Year using the phrase “A glückseliges nuies Johr a ti Gemat”. On these visits, the lady of the house will often bring out the Gemat – a savoury snack made from doughnut dough.