It’s back! On 28 January, the medieval tradition of ‘Fisser Blochziehen’ returns after an intermission of two years since the children’s version was held in 2016. This carnival custom is one of the longest-established folkloric practices in the Alps. A relic of the spring and fertility festivals of our pre-Christian ancestors, it offers an unforgettable spectacle during which the entire centre of Fiss is transformed into a stage.
Our latest SHF Backstage blog series aims to illuminate the famous carnival tradition of ‘Blochziehen’. We begin with some background information, while subsequent blogs will deal with the preparations and procedures for Fisser Blochziehen 2018.
OF BEARS, TREE TRUNKS AND REVELRY
The ‘Blochziehen’ carnival celebration is held every four years, with the children’s version – also four-yearly – being staged in the interval. The custom is named after the ‘Bloch’, a 35-metre-long Swiss pine trunk which represents a plough breaking up the fields for sowing thereby heralding the start of spring. The decorated ‘Bloch’ is pulled through the village by masked revellers that include the ‘bear drivers’ (symbolising the taming of nature) and the ‘Mohrelen’ (who drive away evil). They are accompanied by the farmers and craftsmen of the village.
Carnival traditions tend to follow a more or less uniform pattern, but here in Fiss we like to do things differently! Every four years a different leader is in charge of the masked characters, and for Fisser Blochziehen 2018 it’s is the bear’s turn. To qualify for this part, the actor needs to be a particularly well-built resident of Fiss.
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
The custom of ‘Blochziehen’ was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage for Austria by UNESCO in 2011. Fisser Blochziehen 2018 consists of a fascinating interplay of colours and masks in a traditional expression of the eternal battle between nature and the farmer’s hard life.
Our next blogs will introduce you to the various characters and will feature an exclusive interview with the chairman of the Fisser Blochziehen and with the day’s undisputed star: the bear.