Winter time in Carinthia means a time for tradition, peace and meditation. Christmas in Carinthia also means to smell the aroma of freshly-baked cookies and green pines, to walk through the Christmas market in one's warmest clothing and to warm yourself up with mulled wine.

Christmas markets

Christmas time becomes something very special, as, even in cities, a very unique peace and friendliness comes about, and every family celebrates Christmas time according to old, handed-down traditions. During Advent time, a custom exists that in every city a Christmas market (also called "Christkindlmarkt") is opened up, in which one can obtain everything starting with sweets, Christmas tree decorations and even souvenirs. 


During the so-called "Perchtenlauf," the atmosphere is not so romantic and quiet. The "Perchtenlauf" always takes place in the beginning of December in different villages in all Carinthian regions, during which men disguise themselves with fearful devil's masks and run screaming among the crowd under the sound of cow bells. 

Horse blessing on St Stephen’s Day.

In all the places in Carinthia which are named after St Stephen, such as St. Stefan in the Lavant Valley, on St Stephen’s Day the horses are blessed. After the traditional St Stephen’s ride the horses are given bread with salt. According to tradition, riding round the church three times at different paces (walk, trot and gallop) protects the horses from illness and accidents.

Schapp, schapp, frisch und g’sund.

“Schapp, schapp, frisch und g’sund, s’ganze Jahr gsund bleibn, nit klunzn nit klagn, bis i wieder kumm schlagn.” [“Snap, snap, fresh and healthy, stay healthy all year with no complaints till I come knocking again.”] Children chant this verse early in the morning of 28 December, the “innocent children’s day”, while they tap the adults of the neighbourhood with branches. As a thank you they receive sweets and a few Euros. The children have to be back home by 8 o’clock in the morning, otherwise according to the gruesome tradition they will be put in the oven. 

Ante pante at Candlemas.

An ancient custom known as “carrying little churches” is still kept up in Eisenkappl/ Želesna Kapla. On the evening before Candlemas the children build little churches out of coloured paper and the following day they place these in the River Vellach, where they float down the valley like little dots of light while the children chant a curious song. When you listen to this more closely it runs “Ante pante populore, kocla vrate cvilijore”. The first part is a corruption of the Latin “Ante faciem omnium popolorum” (Before the face of all peoples), and the second part is Slovenian and roughly means “Kocelj’s door creaks”. This sweet custom arose in the Middle Ages, when after heavy rainfall the Vellach burst its banks and flooded the valley. In their desperation the inhabitants each threw a miniature church lit by a candle into the raging river and lo and behold, the flood waters receded.