Discover this ancient, luck-bringing custom.
While fireworks fill the air with smoke and dust in other places, Werfenweng has its own, special tradition on New Year’s Eve: incense burning.
Around the turn of the year, when the nights are long and dark, the magical fragrance of incense, resin, and precious herbs fills the air in people’s traditional “Stuben” parlours. While fireworks fill the air with smoke and dust in other places, Werfenweng has its own, special tradition on New Year’s Eve: incense burning. New Year’s Eve is one of the Twelve Days of Christmas, known as “Rauhnächte” in Austria, a time of mystical traditions that begins on 21 December (St. Thomas’ Day) and ends on 6 January (Epiphany). The origins of the German word “Rauhnacht” are still unclear. Some claim that it can be traced back to the Middle High German word “rûch” (hairy), referring to the hairy, cloven-hooved demons that cause mischief on the nights between Christmas and New Year. Others believe that the word’s origins lie in the ritual of burning cleansing incense (räuchern), which the Celts once performed during the twelve magical nights when other worlds draw closer to our own.
These magical nights played an important role in Alpine folklore (and still do today), as they are the darkest time of the year. A time full of mysteries, magic, and prophecy. During this time, people take out their iron pan and put embers from the stove in it. They then sprinkle resin pearls over the embers and carefully blow into the pan. The resin melts. Smoke rises. Now come the herbs that were gathered and dried over summer. A pleasant fragrance fills the air. A sense of peace takes hold. A fir branch is used to sprinkle holy water over the incense pan, and the pan is then swung into all corners of the room. The family moves on. From room to room. From the house to the stable. On the last of the Twelve Nights on 6 January, they go around their home three times. Finally, hats and caps are held over the smoke and the Rosary is recited. According to custom, the entire family has to take part, otherwise it brings bad luck. And that’s exactly what the custom is intended to ward off, by asking for protection and blessings, letting go of the old year with gratitude, and welcoming the new year with good wishes.
Discover the magic of incense burning. Find soul-felt blessings for the New Year.