Although November 1st, All Saints’ Day, is meant to mark the feast of the Saints and Beatified in Heaven, the day (which falls just before All Souls’ Day on November 2nd), has become widely associated with remembrance of the deceased, including private visits to the graves of one’s relatives, as well as public events such as memorial services for the victims of the two World Wars.
At St. Nikola (Upper Austria), a wreath is submerged in the Danube in memory of all persons drowned in the river.
On the first weekend in November (except when it falls on All Saints or All Souls Day) the wine-growers of Perchtoldsdorf (Lower Austria) celebrate their thanksgiving procession with the “Hüterpritschen” (wine-growers’ crown).
The Farmer's Saints
November 3rd, the day of St. Hubertus, patron of the hunters, is an occasion for hunters to celebrate the end of the hunting year with a religious service and the blowing of hunting-horns. Similar masses are celebrated in some places in Upper Austria (e.g. St. Blasien or Pucking; detailed information is available from the provincial Hunting Associations).
St. Leonard’s day, November 6th, was previously one of the foremost festivals for farmers. St. Leonard was regarded as the mightiest and most important Saint in Heaven, who could protect the cattle and thus secure the existence of the farmers. Changes in economic and mental structures have influenced the customs and St. Leonard is nowadays primarily considered to be patron of beasts, in particular of horses, as well as their riders.
In Kundl (Tyrol) on Leonard’s Sunday i. e. the Sunday following November 6th, a ride for the farmers and members of the riding-club takes place in combination with an open air mass and a blessing of the horses. On St. Leonard’s day itself (6th of November), a mass is said at Pucking and a ride is held at Pettenbach-Heiligenleithen (both in Upper Austria).
St. Martin’s day, November 11th, is important in more than one respect. It marks the end of the wine-growers’ year, and is the day of “baptism” of the new wine, in Lower Austria also called “Martiniloben” (St. Martin’s praise). The Saint is the patron of the province of Burgenland, so the day is the occasion for many official feasts in several places, especially at Eisenstadt, the capital of the province. In the cellars of many wine-growers in Lower Austria and the Burgenland, the new wine is tasted, and the restaurants have the “Martinigansl” (St. Martin’s goose) on their menu. Official “wine baptisms” in several wine-growing villages in Lower Austria (Langenlois) and the Burgenland (Podersdorf, Mörbisch, Jois, Oggau) are open to the public.
There are also lantern processions by children on St. Martin’s day. In Bregenz-Oberstadt (Vorarlberg) a St. Martin figure on horseback shares his cloak with the beggar. Children carrying lanterns accompany him. The lanterns procession is a relatively new custom taken over from Germany, and in Austria mainly performed by the kindergartens. The Bregenz variant was introduced from Augsburg in 1920 and is unique in Austria.
In St. Martin near Feldkirchen (Carinthia) the “Geflügelopfer” (poultry offering) is carried out on St. Martin’s Day. At 6 p.m. mass is celebrated, followed by a procession and an auction of chicken, geese, rabbits, etc. on the village square. Though only re-introduced in 1972, the custom is a revival of earlier traditions. The connection between the Saint and poultry most likely traces back to the coincidence of his feast day with the traditional slaughter-time.
Slide down the barrel
St. Leopold is the patron of Lower Austria. As margrave of Austria (1075-1136) he founded inter alia the convent of Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria), where he is buried in the crypt. On St. Leopold’s day, November 15th, pilgrimages take place to the convent and many visit the wine-cellars for the “Fasslrutschen” (sliding over a huge wine-barrel).
On the last Sunday in November (which is also the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year), the Church choirs give concerts and sing in masses. This is related to the day of St. Cecilia (November 22nd), the patroness of music in general, and ecclesiastical music in particular. She is usually represented with a harp or an organ (often a small, portable organ). Some organs remain silent from Cecilia’s Sunday until Christmas. Nowadays, this Sunday is also called “Christkönigssonntag” (Christ the King).
St. Catherine puts an end to dancing
As a mark of respect for Advent, November 25th (formerly St. Catherine’s Day), previously signalled the end of dancing and other forms of popular entertainment until Carnival.
This “suppression of dance”, though no longer observed as in former times, is marked by special events called “Kathreintänze” (Catherine dances) which in the towns are mostly organized by folk-dance groups and similar groups. In the countryside, these dances often take place in restaurants. In Waldzell (Upper Austria) on November 25th, the “Zechentanz” with the “Katharina-Bier” takes place. (“Zeche” is the traditional name for a group of village youths).
On “Kathreinsonntag”, the Sunday following November 25th, the salt-miners of lschl (Upper Austria) celebrate their mine-festival, and in the whole region of the “Salzkammergut” about 30 bird-catching clubs organize an exhibition of various birds. Birdcatching has a long tradition in this region, restricted to the period from September 15th to December 15th. The birds are kept indoors during the winter and then released.
As of St. Andrew’s day, November 30th, the ecclesiastical year is finally at an end. On the Monday and Tuesday closest to St. Andrew’s Day, the fourth and last rag-fair of the year, the “Andrämarkt”, takes place in Graz.