The Corpus Christi procession
When the people of Kitzbühel gather for the Corpus Christi procession on the second Thursday after Whitsun, the town embarks on a journey into the past for one morning. While the shop windows and house facades retain their distinctive appearance, hundreds of members of Kitzbühel's traditional associations exude living stories.
The "Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ," as Corpus Christi is officially called, celebrates the bodily presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. If the weather gods are kind to the people of Kitzbühel, they celebrate this Catholic high festival in a procession through the town. Led by a cross bearer and the town music, the local traditional associations walk in time from the town parish church via Vorderstadt and Hinterstadt to the Capuchin church and back again. Not only the devotional atmosphere makes the procession an impressive experience, but also the historical costumes and uniforms cause a sensation. How often do you see an armed rifle company, Trachtler or Röcklgwandfrauen nowadays?
The ladies in the Kasettl
The latter in particular only show themselves around five times a year, even in the Gamsstadt. "The most important days for us are Corpus Christi and Thanksgiving," says Anna Werlberger, proud wearer of a Röcklgwand. The traditional costume, also called Kasettl, is still widespread in the Tyrolean lowlands. Wearers can be found again more nowadays than some time ago. "About 20 years ago, there were only three or four Röcklgwandfrauen with us, but now we are becoming more and more," reports the Kitzbühel woman. In addition to the representation task, she and her colleagues live the old customs to "keep everything from the past, all the old traditions." The Röcklgwand itself is the best example of this. After all, the traditional costumes are not newly made, but inherited. "And if one wearer no longer likes it, then the Kasettl are prepared for the next one," says Werlberger.
Tradition since 150 years
The members of the Kitzbühel traditional costume society "Landsturmgruppe 1809" are no less often used as photo motifs. The fact that the name of this traditional association includes the year of the Tyrolean national uprising under Andreas Hofer is probably no coincidence. As early as the 1860s, an illustrious group met to preserve traditional costumes and customs. Today, the Trachtenverein has a proud 204 members and, as in the past, tradition comes first: "It is an important pillar for Kitzbühel to revive traditional costumes so that they are not forgotten," says Andreas Obermoser, chairman of the Kitzbüheler Trachtenverein.
Around 15 to 20 times a year, delegations of his members move out. "We are at all church occasions such as Corpus Christi or Easter and also visit celebrations of higher-level traditional costume associations," says Obermoser. But the big highlight for him and his association is still to come. On June 29 and 30, the 150th anniversary of the Kitzbühel Trachtenverein will be celebrated. "450 children will perform various dances in the city on Saturday, and on Sunday we expect over 1050 people to wear traditional costumes," the Kitzbüheler tells us. The highlight of the celebrations is the festive service Sunday morning, which will take place at Sparkassenplatz in the middle of town. "Afterwards, there will be a large parade with all the traditional costume wearers," Obermoser continues.
On the trail of Andreas Hofer
If the Trachtler and Röcklgwandfrauen provide visual features, the Schützenverein also draws attention to itself acoustically. Twice during the Corpus Christi procession, the armed marksmen fire a salvo of honor. Firing shots during a church service may seem strange, but it has been a tradition since the Tyrolean fight for freedom in 1809. "On the one hand, our customs are based on our loyalty to our homeland, and on the other hand, we represent Andreas Hofer, who fought for our fatherland in 1809. Seen in this light, we stand for a modern defense and protect our homeland," explains Johann Pletzer, captain of the rifle company. Together with 223 other Tyrolean rifle associations, they guard the values that are intrinsic to the province.
Unlike the other 223 companies, Corpus Christi has a particularly high significance in Kitzbühel. "Normally, the riflemen celebrate the Sunday of the Sacred Heart, the third Sunday after Pentecost. But with us, this has long been equated with Corpus Christi," the captain tells us, "so only the Trachtler celebrate this day in a big way."
Tradition for eyes and ears
Whether Corpus Christi procession, the Trachtler festival, the fair or the summer square concerts: With its 153 years of existence, it is hard to imagine Kitzbühel's town music without either church or secular traditional events. While the band intones supporting and devotional music as part of Catholic high festivals, the program of the weekly square concerts (starting July 2 in the Vorderstadt) is much more colorful: "There is not really an exact direction. We want to cover a broad spectrum so that there is a treat for everyone," explains the chairman of the Stadtmusik, Michael Schwanninger. Everything from a Weissbacher piece to Glenn Miller to Gangnam Style will be heard. "Of course, also a traditional march. But that with the tradition is such a thing, because you have to look at what of a tradition is worth preserving and what you have to adapt. The Corpus Christi procession has also evolved over the centuries," Schwanninger explains.
By the way, the same applies to the popular fair of the town music, which takes place every year on the first Saturday in August: In 1930, the main prize at the so-called pot luck was still a live pig. Would that be "lucky" nowadays?