Maintaining the Austrian tradition – scaring the hell out of the kids


There were screams in the street and the devils paraded through the town square. To be fair some of the screams were of the joyous variety but others sounded a little less sure. There was also lots of laughter from the older children and adults.

Yesterday (8th December) was a bank holiday and we were in Zwettl to see the devils and demons who parade there each year. The town itself sits ‘deep in the heart of the rolling, forested hills of the Waldviertel in Lower Austria’ as the guidebooks describe – which to be honest is a fair description and why I pinched it. The town centre boasts some rather nice sixteenth and seventh century builds and the more modern architecture mixes in well. Whilst the Christmas Market was not as interesting as we had hoped a big plus for me was to find that the local restaurant offered a rather enjoyable vegetarian option – not always something you find even in towns.

The ‘devils or demons’ come in good and bad forms as I understand it and many have large bells attached to themselves. The purpose of their appearance, the parade and the banging of drums and bells is to drive away the evil winter spirits.

At the start of the parade Helena was at the front of the crowd. As soon as the first ‘devils’ appeared in their orc like costumes she stepped back a little and grabbed my hand. When one of the ‘devils’ began to approach Helena retreated behind me and then when it entered the crowd towards her she release a mighty scream and ran to the back. From her new vantage point Helena then refused to move as the parade passed by. She was so concerned that one of the ‘devils’ might come to get her that she continually checked over her shoulder. Now those of you who know Helena will be aware that she is not an eight year old who usually scares easily but there was something about this that really challenged her view of the real – and she had seen some of the participants dressing for the event earlier in the day.

Despite Helena’s reaction she was in agreement, as we travelled home, that it had been worth the two hour drive to see the devils. Personal I found it fun but have to admit to jumping somewhat when, as I lower the camera, one of the devils sprang up in front of me – the costumes really were quite impressive.

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Filed under Out and about in Lower Austria, Vienna Life

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