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Funkenfest am Himmel

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EN ♦ The so-called sparkling fire (Funkenfeuer) is a pagan cult which has been preserved as a tradition in Swabian-Alemannic regions, in eastern France and in the Swabian community in Satu Mare (Romania). It is celebrated every year, on the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday (the first Sunday of Lent) or, more recently in some regions, on the Saturday before. What you need: a hill or a mountain height, a large pile of wood, a puppet (as a witch scarecrow). A tower is built from the wood sticks and the puppet is placed on top of it, attached to a long pole. And, action! The pile of wood is lit from the bottom under the amazed eyes of the onlookers; when the fire reaches the top, the puppet explodes and fireworks are released. The meaning of this ritual is, according to the ancient folk belief, breaking the grip of winter and welcoming the spring. I witnessed this tradition somewhere on the outskirts of Vienna (am Himmel) and I must say it was truly a social spectacle. The night ended in hot spiced wine (Glühwein), Funkenküchle (a traditional dough) and joyous people dancing around the fire.

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