By Lena Seifert
In the authentic Sarntal Valley in Italy's South Tyrol traditions are kept alive passionately. For example, "Kloeckeln" is a tradition during the Advents time (the four weeks before Christmas) that exists here since the 16th Century and has survived until today in its special original form.
Anyone who visits the Sarntal valley finds authentic, evolved tradition, which is kept alive naturally by the Sarners. Customs are no routine rituals here; they are authentically observed and celebrated. A special tradition is Kloeckeln, a custom at the time of Advent with pagan elements. The term "Kloekeln" is derived from "klocken", which in Sarner dialect means as much as "to knock". In former times Kloeckeln existed in the entire Alps, nowadays it is kept alive only in a few valleys - and rarely as authentically as in the Sarntal valley.
The evenings for Kloeckeln are the three Thursday evenings in Advent before the winter solstice. On December 3, 10, and 17, 2009 Sarner men, parade as masked figures, noisily blowing their buck-horns in the still winter nights, knocking at the doors, and asking for gifts in the form of food and drink. In this custom these men wear hand-made masks and Sarner working-costumes, and present traditionally two songs: The Kloeckel Song, and the Thank-You Song. In these three nights of December visitors can witness this old tradition in the wintry streets of the Sarntal.
When the Kloeckel-group, the so-called "Kutt", parades with noise from house to house, certain characters may not be absent: The "Zussler" - two men dressed as a married couple, the accordion player, the "Lottrsacktrger" as well as further "Kloecklers" using bells, buck-horns and other loud instruments. The Zussler are meant to represent in this play the dark demons of winter fighting with the bright spirits of spring. The "Zusslmandl" wears in this pageant the old Sarner costume with the red, split sword, which is beaten continuously on the hand to the beat of the Thank-You Song and the constant pursuits by the "Zussweibele". The "Weibele" wears the "Niederfeiertag"-dress of Summer and around her hips a belt with bells, that is heard already from a distance when running. While the "Kutt" presents the Kloeckel song, the couple often enters the homes and accepts served food. During the Thank-You Song the "Zussler" finally come into the village center, and dance out of respect. At the end of such a Kloeckel night, the "Kutt" take off their masks, and all Kloecklers celebrate wildly with song and dance at a farmer's place. Hearty food like dumplings, meat, and sauerkraut are not supposed to be missing. Since fasting was done previously during the time of Advent, the Kloeckler could not eat their earned gifts immediately, but had to be patient until Stephen's day (December 26th) But then the so-called "Kloeckel-Sausage-Brewing" was celebrated happily with dance and music. This tradition is alive up to today in the small mountain village Durnholz in the Northern Italian Sarntal Valley.
Lena Seifert writes for TouchingNature.co.uk, a travel destination website with many useful tools to help you plan (or at least dream...) about your next walking holiday or hiking vacation in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Italian Dolomites and South Tyrol. Visit them online at http://www.touchingnature.co.uk/dolomites-walking-south-tyrol.htm
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