Easter weekend is already upon us and no doubt preparations for the celebrations have been taking place for weeks in Austrian households. Here is a run-down of some of the activity surrounding the widely-celebrated Christian holiday in Austria this weekend, including egg painting, fire-lighting and treasure-hunting.
On Easter Sunday (March 20th), the 40 days of fasting for Lent will officially end and the Holy Week (Karwoche) will begin. Attending Easter Mass at church, many Austrians will bring decorative ‘Palmbuschen' bouquets to be blessed to commemorate the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem and then taken home to protect the family. Some churches will also be holding an evening Mass and in Vienna's Stephansdom there will be an Easter Sunday evening concert starting at 11pm.
A more pagan-inspired ritual is to light an Easter fire the night before Easter Sunday, where people meet to sing and dance and maybe even jump over the fire (be careful!).
Decorating Easter eggs is also an important tradition in Austria. The eggs are blown out and the hollow shell is painted or stencilled before being hung in the windows, on tree branches and around the house. In some parts of Austria a game is played much like conkers, where the eggs are knocked together (Eierpecken).
Photo: Schönbrunn Palace Ostermarkt
As with all festive seasons, food plays a big part in Easter as Lent draws to a close. Although these days most people will have given up chocolate or cigarettes rather than their entire food intake, the traditional Easter brunch with the family is still a much-relished meal.
In Austria, families are likely to tuck into sweet bread (Osterpinze), cold meats, coloured eggs and Easter lamb cake (Osterlamm). Of course, there are also the obligatory chocolate rabbits and eggs for children, often hidden around the house or garden for them to find in a treasure hunt.
Just like at Christmas, Austria also puts on hundreds of Easter markets selling regional knick-knacks, food, and presents for children. Many also feature live animals such a bunny rabbit and some will have live music too. But be quick - this weekend will be the last chance to visit many of them.
Vienna's most popular Easter markets are at Schönbrunn Palace (from March 9th to March 29th) and at Freyung (from March 11th to March 28th). The Freyung market also features craft workshops for children.
The Easter Market at the Hauptplatz und Franziskanerplatz in Graz, Styria will feature artisan and food stalls plus live entertainment, with particularly events aimed at children in the children's ‘Easter world'. It's open from March 18th to March 26th.
The Salzburg Easter Festival, which has been put on every year since 1967, is held every year during Easter, this year between March 19th and 28th. It's a chance to see some recitals, concerts and operas throughout the musical city.
Salzburg also has a traditional Easter Market, open since March 19th, at the Open Air Museum where you can buy local products, decorate eggs or tie "Palmbuschen" bouquets.
Klagenfurt's Easter Market is being held on the Neuer Platz, in front of the town hall, between March 10th and 26th. There will be dozens of stalls, performers, eateries and gardeners working to transform the square into a colourful springtime oasis. Also in Carinthia is Villach Easter Market which is open from March 17th until today, March 25th.
Tyrol's annual Easter festival features choirs , performers and dancers at the Innsbruck Congress Centre and will continue to run through the Easter weekend.
The Easter market at Kufstein open today (25th) and tomorrow will also feature culinary delights, local products and traditional handicrafts.
Some 30 stall-holders will be at Innsbruck Easter Market between March 17th and March 28th in the midst of the Old Town, selling high end gifts and crafts alongside tasty treats and festivities.
For a full list of Easter markets in Austria, see here!