Nassereith is a small village about 60 km northeast of Innsbruck close to the German border along the former Roman Route Via Claudia Augusta. This 2000 year old route from Augburg via Tirol to Venice was used to transport goods from the Adriatic sea to the Danube river. The picturesque village with a population of 2,000 inhabitants is shaped by its history and is where I spent my childhood. My parents still live there and I love to return to the place full of memories. One reason is the carnival custom “Schellerlaufen”, which takes place only every three years and where the whole village goes wild. It takes place on Sunday, the 17th of February 2019.
1. Triumph of spring over winter
The whole focus of one of the oldest traditional carnival customs is the fight between spring and winter. Spring is embodied by the figure of the bear and winter by the symbol of the bear beater. The bear beater tries to tame the bear, which in the end wins over the bear beater. The fight between the bear and bear beater is the main highlight of this spectacle. The bear, bear beater and collector are the main figures in the Nassereither Schellerlaufen and it is the biggest honour to participate as these figures in the carnival (Fasnacht).
2. Strict rules and traditions
It is hard to predict how old the tradition of the Schellerlaufen is. However it was mentioned in one of the prohibitions in 1740. For locals this does not matter. The Schellerlaufen for them has been existant forever. What is important to know is that is has to follow strict rules. This rules are looked after by the “Fasnachtskomitee”, the organizing board of the Schellerlaufen. One of them is that only men are allowed to particpate in the carnival tradition. Only locals from Nassereith or if they were lucky enough to move to Nassereith can take part. Around 500 active men particpate on that day, which is not bad for a village with a population of 2,000 humans, including men and women. Another strict rule is that the main figures, such as the bear, whitches, ringer, etc. can not be passed on by the men. In January the carnival gathering takes place before each big Schellerlaufen event, where the main figures will be drawn.
3. The Schellerlaufen gene
Before locals of Nassereith can even speak, they can hum the official anthem of the Schellerlaufen. Is it quite amazing how everybody is taken by the spirit. I even believe that women have the bigger Schellerlaufen gene than men do. Although they are not allowed to participate in the parade, the Schellerlaufen would not be able to take place without them. The costumes out of silk, crystals and other valuable fabrics are handmade by women and take several weeks to be finished. Even the wooden masks are carved by a woman called Irene Krismer. The whole Schellerlaufen is built on a unique spirit and a lot of volunteers working already for more than half a year.
4. The carnival in Nassereith – a whole series of events
The Schellerlaufen is the highlight of the carnival seasons, however it involves a series of events. As mentioned the carnival fever starts with the carnival gathering in January, where it will clear which men will have which role. On the Sunday after the carnival gathering the carnival has to be found and the “Fasnachts Suacha” (looking for the carnival) takes place. The carnival is embodied in a figure called “Ruassler”. Ruas is the local word for soot. Being blackend with soot is a symbol of luck. Hundreds of men dress up and look with unique gear for the “Ruassler”. Once it has been found in a pile of snow the whole community attunes with a big “Autupete Hö”. In between the “Fasnachts Sucha” and the Schellerlaufen, the main figures gather every Sunday for a big rehearsal. Under the strict eyes of the locals and many spectators they have to perform at their best. 2019 the main event the Schellerlaufen takes place on the 17th of February and is the main highlight of the carnival season. The week after the carnival the funeral takes place and the “Ruassler” will be accompanied on his last journey. This is the end of the carnival season and the village has to wait for another three years until the whole spirit starts.
5. A colourful spectacle
The Schellerlaufen is one of the most colourful carnival traditions and has unique figures. It certainly is impressive and certainly worth to visit. Several further carnivals take place in the western part of the Tirol region and neighbouring region of Swabia. One of them for example is in the neighbouring town of Imst, the “Schemenlaufen”, which takes place only every four years. The next Schemenlaufen is on the 17th of February 2019.
I see you at the Schellerlaufen in Nassereith with a big “Autupete Hö”.
Further information on the Fasnacht can be found on www.fasnacht-nassereith.at