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Of 'krapfen', hens and beggars


All Saints' Day. This religious holiday is associated by many with grey mists and late autumn weather. The narrow paths through graveyards may already have a thin layer of snow on them and the flames of the candles do their best to compete with the twilight. They are trying to make their mark, as these flames mean that departed loved ones are still in our hearts and have not been forgotten. This is most people's main wish on All Saints' Day.

Poor beggars wreaks havoc

In some valleys of South Tyrol there are other tasks to be carried out at this time. These begin a day before All Saints', on 31st October. On this day, where in other places Halloween is celebrated, children from Ultental Valley set out on a mission armed with hats, blue apron and rucksack. They don't shout “Trick or Treat“, but beg for sweet 'krapfen' pastries with poems that they have learned by heart! This is known as 'kropfenlottern'. It is an old tradition that was on the verge of being forgotten and now, thanks to the younger generation, it is increasing in popularity.

Marlene Gamper, from Haus Grünfeld in Ultental Valley remembers the verses of the 'Lotterer':

Mir kemmen ve Proveis,

über Schnea und Eis,

über Stial und Bänk

und sein grennt bis ze enk.

Muatterle, Voterle,

gebb ins a Krapfl,

mir sein an orms Lotterzapfl.

Gebb ins a Löffele voll Fill,

nor sein mer gschwing still,

oder an Pfonnefleck,

nor gian mir enk ve die Wänd aweck.

We come from Proveis,

over snow and ice,

over hill and dale,

to reach you.

Mother, father,

give us a 'krapfl'

we are just poor 'lotterzapfl'.

Give us a spoonful of poppy seeds,

And we will soon grow still,

or a pastry piece,

and we will leave you in peace.

Hen or hare?

There's no time to laze around in bed, as the next day involves visits to graveyards and cemeteries. Most children can look forward to presents from godparents on this day. In some areas, there may be a tasty 'fochaz' hen or hare – a type of sweet bread – amidst the ribbons and packaging. According to tradition, girls receive a hen and boys a hare. It was a common customs in the olden days to give godchildren something sweet to eat, as people often didn't have enough money for expensive presents back then. This was a sign that children would never go hungry while their godparents were around.

A peaceful time? Not necessarily...

The 2nd November is All Souls' Day, and is likewise dedicated to the dead. In the town of Glurns, however, this is not the case: the largest market in the Upper Vinschgau Valley, the 'Sealamorkt', is held here! Traders set up their stalls inside the city walls and loudly advertise their hand-made wares, traditional tasty fare and all sorts of knick-knacks. It used to be a cattle and goods market where people could stock up ahead of the winter, but today it is more like a meeting place where traders, bargain-hunters and locals can get together for a cup of mulled wine to bring a bit of cheer to this dark time of year.