Corpus Christi processions

Where: throughout Tyrol; when: 60 days after Easter

These processions are another church tradition that can be traced back to ancient farming customs. 60 days after Easter Sunday, the people of Tyrol parade through their villages. They visit four altars along the way and carry valuable "Ferggelen", which are wooden carved figures of saints. The processions may also be referred to as the "Umagang" because they tended to circle around the village.

The name "Corpus Christi" refers to the "Body of the Lord". These processions may have started in pre-Christian times when people implored the grace of the gods – later the grace of God – as they continue to do today.

The Sacred Heart fires – mountains in flames

Where: throughout Tyrol; when: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

This is the most important holiday in Tyrol that is celebrated around the time when the longest day meets the shortest night. Mountain fires burn in Tyrol on this day as a reminder of the renowned Tyrolean shooters. The age-old "Summer Solstice Fires" are therefore augmented with modern folklore.

In 1796, the country suddenly became involved in the Napoleonic wars. 7,000 men were deemed fit for military service and hastily given military training. In order to be sure of beating the French, the Tyrolean shooters called on divine assistance: they made a vow to entrust their land to the "Sacred Heart of Jesus". When the Tyroleans defeated the French on Bergisel hill in 1809, Sacred Heart Sunday was declared a public holiday. The celebrations start the night before, on Saturday evening, with the lighting of the mountain fires. The flaming images on the mountain slopes mostly represent Christian iconography, for example crosses, INRI and the sacred heart.

Assumption Day, known in Tyrol as "Hohe Frauentag"

Where: throughout Tyrol, when: 15 August

The Tyrolean state parliament made Assumption Day a state holiday in 1959. As a result, the 15 August is a major public holiday in Tyrol. The celebrations are also some of the most spectacular because the Tyroleans, led by armed shooters, also use this day to celebrate their overwhelming victory against Napoleonic troops at the 3rd Battle of Bergisel on 13 August 1809.

It is, therefore, no surprise that Hohe Frauentag traditionally starts with three loud cannon shots at six o'clock in the morning. Every rifle company in Tyrol is active on this day and gun salutes are fired before rounding off the celebrations with beer and wine.

Another tradition on this day is the presenting of awards, medals and decorations.

The firing of guns

This is an important message for anyone in our region who is sometimes woken by the sound of gunfire early in the morning. Thankfully, it does not mean war. On the contrary, in Tyrol the sound of gunfire or cannons heralds very special days. For example, Assumption Day (also known in Tyrol as Hohe Frauentag) on 15 August, Sacred Heart Sunday 60 days after Pentecost, Corpus Christi or patronal festivals. Sometimes, gunfire now also accompanies "less important" occasions, such as the 1st May celebrations, Mother's Day (if you can believe it) and marksmen's festivals. There is no fixed rule for when gun salutes are fired but there is a rule of thumb: shots may be heard whenever shooters or rifle companies have played a special role in the context of a holiday or festival.

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