Gertraud Obersteiner: “My Christmas? Krampus, music and homemade biscuits!”

Gertraud Obersteiner natale valpusteria

Today's meeting is with Gertraud Obersteiner, head of the Villabassa tourist office since 1983 and, as always, one of the most valuable collaborators in the organization of our festival. With Gertraud we talk about Christmas in South Tyrol and the traditions associated with this period.

Good morning Gertraud; first of all, how popular is Christmas in Val Pusteria?
In our region, Christmas is a very heartfelt holiday and is celebrated meticulously respecting traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries.

Can you give us some examples?
One of the oldest customs comes to mind, which is that of the Krampus: on December 5, young people dress up in a fur coat and a mask with terrifying features, parading in characteristic processions and frightening the spectators, with improvised dances and decomposed and fast body movements.

Speaking of traditions, what is the meaning of the mysterious writings that in this period are drawn with chalk above the entrance door of the houses?
It is the famous blessing of chalk, an ancient custom linked to the Epiphany. The inscription consists of a central part of three letters "C+M+B" (initials of the Latin phrase "Christus Mansionem Benedicat", May Christ bless this house) and two lateral pairs of numbers indicating the year. From January, therefore, on our doors you will read "20 C+M+B 23".

What happens in the weeks leading up to Christmas?
First of all, during Advent Christmas cookies are prepared in homes, which - be careful - cannot be eaten before December 24th! Then, as in the rest of the world, the nativity scenes, the tree and the Christmas decorations are set up; finally, the children compile the wish list for their gifts.

And finally Christmas arrives: tell us about the evening of December 24th.
In our homes there is above all the traditional smoking”: a container containing incense and holy water (the fumes) is carried throughout the rooms to bless the house and the people who inhabit it. Then we move on to dinner; and after dinner, when you can finally eat the homemade biscuits, the presents are unwrapped!

Apart from these homemade biscuits (which seem very precious...) are there any other typical sweets of the Christmas period?
I would mention two: first of all the "Niggilan", fried sweets typical of Tyrol which traditionally conclude the Christmas Eve dinner. And then surely the “Zelten”, the fruity sweet bread made with dried fruit of all kinds, rum, honey, cinnamon. The first is very simple, the second is very elaborate.

biscotti di natale Gertraud Obersteiner

Music and Christmas: Will you organize something in Villabassa?
Of course, music is part of Christmas! Before midnight, here in Villabassa it is customary to go out to all gather in the square, wish each other good wishes and listen to the concert of Christmas music performed by the brass of our brass band.

And finally, a curiosity: what will be the menu for your Christmas lunch?
My menu? Pumpkin cream, roast pork with potatoes and vegetables, cinnamon mousse; all accompanied by a good red wine, Lagrein or Merlot. And after dinner, of course… HOMEMADE COOKIES!

Thanks Gertraud and best wishes for Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!