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EASTER

How to celebrate Easter like an Austrian

From cakes in the shape of a baby lamb to 'Green Thursday', Easter in Austria can feel a little different. Here's your guide to the festivities.

Easter egg decorations
ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Easter traditions begin in Austria in the weeks leading up to the big day, as shops and bakeries start to fill up with seasonal goods such as Osterpinzen (a kind of sweet bread roll), Schinken im Brotteig (ham in a bread crust), colourful hardboiled eggs and cakes in the shape of a baby lamb (Osterlamm). 

Here are some examples of what the Osterlamm might look like – and one of a pretty sad looking little lamb. 

For those unsure why a lamb-shaped cake should take centre stage this time of year, here is a brief explanation of its history and purpose during Easter time.

As well as looking cute, delighting children, and tasting nice, Osterlamm has a serious side.

There are lots of different Osterlamm recipes available online – most requiring a lamb-shaped cake form – but the ready-made version is also easy to pick up from certain shops in Austria.

The following link breaks down the Osterlamm and at least tries to answer why it is so important for Austrians. 

READ MORE: ‘Osterlamm’ and what it means to Austria

Decorations

Many people decorate their homes with an Easter centrepiece arrangements of Palmkätzchen (also known as Palmbuschen, Palmkatzln, Palmkatzerl or pussy willow in English) and decorated wooden eggs, though some people add other foliage to the decoration. 

Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday) is celebrated in Austria by the blessing of Palmkätzchen rather than palms.

An Austrian folk custom says that if you bury these blessed Palmkätzchen, they protect your fields from bad weather during the year.

Green Thursday

Maundy Thursday follows or Gründonnerstag (Green Thursday), as it is known in Austria. It is traditional to eat spinach and other green foods such as kale, herbs or salads on this day, hence the name.

On this day in much of Austria and also in Catholic areas of Germany it is said the church bells fall silent and “fly to Rome”, so children are tasked with making a noise with wooden rattles to announce the times of day and call for church services.

READ MORE: What does Gründonnerstag mean in Austria?

In some parts of Austria, groups of boys walk from house to house with baskets and their ratchets to collect eggs.

Good Friday

Karfreitag (Good Friday) is not really celebrated by Catholics and is no longer a public holiday for Protestants living in Austria.

Easter fires

The most elaborate Easter rituals in Austria are said to be in Styria and Carinthia, where   on the Saturday before Easter (Holy Saturday or Karsamstag) it is common to have a bonfire or Osterfeuer outside together with family and friends.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, there will be restrictions on traditional Easter bonfires. In Carinthia they will only be allowed in public between 6am and 8pm in Carinthia.

The number of participants will also be limited.

Traditional Easter bonfires will be restricted this year in Austria. Image: AFP

Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday in Austria, children enjoy Easter egg hunts and a large Saturday dinner and/or Sunday breakfast with ham, coloured eggs, Osterpinzen bread and special cakes. Church bells ring out, having returned from Rome.

A popular game is Eierpecken (egg pecking), in which people bang coloured eggs together until they break. Then the winner has to eat the eggs. 

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is hitting the headlines as the Austrian Federal Government plans a reform of the scheme. Here's how it works now, why it is necessary and how it will change in the future.

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child-Pass) was launched in Austria in 1974 to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies.

It grants pregnant women free access to essential examinations and consultations, and serves as a record of healthcare.

But big changes are on the cards for the pass as a digitization reform is planned for the coming years, while disputes continue about the cost of the scheme.

Here’s what you need to know about how the Mutter-Kind-Pass works, why it’s necessary and how it will change. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules about turning on the heating in the workplace in Austria?

What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document to provide and track healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

It is issued to a woman when a pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and contains records of medical examinations during pregnancy. As well as health check-ups for the child up to five years of age.

The Mutter-Kind-Pass exists to ensure pregnant women and children get the necessary medical care they need.

For example, women in Austria are entitled to five medical check-ups throughout their pregnancy including blood tests, internal examinations, ultrasound scans and consultations with a midwife.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Who can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass and how much does it cost?

Any pregnant woman living in Austria can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass (and subsequent health examinations) for free.

However, all examinations must take place with a doctor that is registered with a health insurance company in Austria.

Women without health insurance need a confirmation of entitlement from the Austrian health insurance fund that is responsible for the area where they live.

This is a required step before any examinations can take place free of charge.

Why is the pass necessary?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass and its mandatory examinations are primarily used to detect any illnesses or possible complications early. 

The expected date of delivery is also entered into the Mutter-Kind-Pass, so the document is needed to receive maternity pay in Austria.

Additionally, proof of examinations are required to receive the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). This means the pass should be taken to every maternity-related appointment, as recommended by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.

How is the Mutter-Kind-Pass being reformed?

On Wednesday 16th November, Minister for Women and Family Affairs Susanne Raab (ÖVP) and Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) announced a reform of the Mutter-Kind-Pass.

The most notable change will be a transition from the paper booklet to a digital app in 2024, as well as new services and a name change to the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child-Pass).

Raab said: “In addition to the services in the area of ​​health care, we will introduce parent advice, which should be a compass for the new phase of life for new parents.”

The new services will include counselling, an extra consultation with a midwife, an additional ultrasound, hearing screenings for newborns, nutritional and health advice, and multilingual information in digital form.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In the future, parents-to-be and new parents will also be offered parenting advice when they have their first child, for example on the compatibility of employment and childcare, on the division of parental leave or on the effects of part-time work on pensions.

“The mother-child pass has been an essential part of maternal and child health in Austria for decades. Now we have managed together to further develop this important instrument in a contemporary form”, said Rauch.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

The implementation of the parent-child passport is a comprehensive, multi-year project and will begin with digitisation from next year.

The annual budget for the Mutter-Kind-Pass is currently €62 million and an additional €10 million from EU funds has been allocated to cover the cost of the reforms. 

However, there have been debates in recent months about the general cost of the pass. 

As a result there are ongoing negotiations between insurance companies and the Medical Association about the reimbursement of fees for providing healthcare and examinations.

READ ALSO: ‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

Der Standard reports that the Medical Association is threatening to discontinue the Mutter-Kind-Pass at the end of the year if an agreement on doctors fees cannot be reached. If that were to happen, expectant mothers would have to pay for examinations.

Currently, doctors receive €18.02 per examination and the Association is calling for an 80 percent increase.

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