"Roller" and "Scheller" at the Imst Schemenlauf Parade, © Tirol Werbung/Bernhard Aichner
"Roller" and "Scheller" at the Imst Schemenlauf Parade, © Tirol Werbung/Bernhard Aichner

Magical & Mystical: Carnival in Tirol

Carnival season includes some of the most important folk events of Tirol. Long past rites and customs are still lived here and include an array of magical and anxiously awaited spectacles. And if you are going to be in Tirol during the Carnival period, then you must definitely check out some of these unique spectacles.

Nowhere else will you find so many diverse and deeply entrenched Carnival traditions as in Tirol. The Carnival season celebrates the natural changes of seasons. As with many Tirolean carnival customs, the festive parades are symbolic of the fight between the winter and the spring. In long past times, human survival was dependent on the pattern of the seasons, from spring to winter, from seedtime to harvest. The early festivals originated in celebration of this natural wonder. In order to ensure that the pattern of seasons would not fail, rites and ceremonies dedicated to the different gods were devised.

As spring is the season of hope, spring festivals were joyous occasions in celebration of the rebirth of nature. Carnival customs reflect this happiness in singing, dancing, flowers, and jokes. There will be fleets of elaborately designed floats which caricature both, regional goings-on and ancient traditions. And many a visitor ends up on one of these floats to share a drink with the carnival characters. Tirol has many great and joyous Shrovetide celebrations and parades.

1 · Imst Schemenlauf Parade

Imst Schemenlaufen Parade, © Tirol Werbung / Aichner Bernhard

Some 900 men take part in the famous Imst Schemenlaufen Parade which is certainly the most important in Tirol if not one of the most important in all the Alps. Months and months of frenzied preparations precede this century-old spectacle, which possesses a mystical attraction no one can resist. The main characters of this festival are “Roller” and “Scheller”. The youthful “Roller” – symbolizing elegance and strength – prances in front of the “Scheller” who wears a furrowed mask and has to ring eight heavy, hand-forged bells fastened to his hips. On their heads they wear lavishly decorated headdresses with a mirror in the center symbolizing vanity, profligacy, lust and wickedness. Held every four years, the Imst Schemenlaufen was declared a “World Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in 2012. Two years before the main event, the Buabefasnacht (Boys Carnival) is held in Imst, when around 400 young lads aged between six and sixteen turn Imst on its head during their carnival celebrations.

Upcoming Event: Schemenlaufen Parade on February 09, 2020; “Buabefasnacht” Boys Carnival: 2022

3 · Telfs Schleicherlaufen

The Telfs “Schleicherlaufen” Run, © Tirol Werbung/Bernhard Aichner

The Telfs “Schleicherlaufen” Run ranges among Tirol's traditional carnival parades – a fascinating example of a long maintained tradition held every five years. The most noticeable difference to other Tirolean Shrovetide celebrations is that the 40 participants called “Schleicher” – exclusively men – wear individually designed hats that weigh up to eight kilograms and are sometimes higher than one meter. Their masks made of fine wire netting intend to make their wearers look young. Likewise unique are the “Wilde” who wear wooden masks and gowns made from some kind of tree lichen. “Schleicher” and “Wilde” are probably among the oldest Shrovetide characters and might be traced back to cultic-ritual roots. The Telfs Schleicherlaufen Run was declared a “World Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in 2010.

Upcoming Event: Telfs “Schleicherlaufen” Run on February 02, 2020

4 · Muller & Matschgerer Runs Around Innsbruck and Hall

The “Muller and Matschgerer” Run in the greater Innsbruck Area, © Tirol Werbung/Bernhard Aichner

Another Tirolean carnival custom, deeply steeped in tradition, includes the “Muller and Matschgerer” Run, which is especially popular in the greater Innsbruck Area. A huge crowd rallies to these events, often in freezing temperatures, and thousands of locals and guests sing and dance on the streets, awaiting the appearance of the first carnival floats with their dazzling lights, bright colors and electrifying energy. The most characteristic mask characters are the so-called “Zottler”, “Zaggler”, “Klötzler”, “Melcher” and “Spiegeltuxer”, dressed up in brilliant colors to better attract the attention of the passers-by. The tradition-conscious communities in Rum, Thaur, Absam and Mils organise a large procession every second year.

Upcoming Events: Rumer Mullerlaufen: February 24, 2019 im Rum; Milser Matschgerer-Umzug: February 16, 2020 in Mils

5 · Fiss Blochziehen

Fiss Blochziehen, © TVB Serfaus Fiss Ladis/Andreas Kirschner

One of the most original carnival celebrations in Tirol is the “Blochziehen” event that is held every four years in Fiss. This custom is deeply rooted in tradition as it dates back to medieval times. The focal point of this original fertility cult is the “Bloch”, an impressive 30 meters long pine log that is pulled through the village by masked revelers. The elaborate ceremony symbolizes the plough breaking up the ground in spring for sowing. These Shrovetide celebrations carry on until late afternoon and end with a public auction for this valuable piece of stone pine timber.

Upcoming Event: “Blochziehen” in Fiss in 2022


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