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Why is Pentecost celebrated? - Traditions and customs in South Tyrol

Pentecost is a holiday, everyone knows that. But why actually? We have pursued the question of what exactly is celebrated at Pentecost and which Pentecost traditions are still alive in South Tyrol.

Pens in the Sarntal
Pens in the Sarntal
Astfeld im Sarntal
Astfeld im Sarntal

Pentecost is also referred to as the "Festival of the Holy Spirit" and plays a very significant role in the Christian faith. The term "Pentecost" comes from the Greek word "pentekosté", which means as much as the fiftieth, marking the end of the Easter period after 50 days. The festival probably dates back to Shavuot, a Jewish festival, where the first harvest of the year was celebrated. Countless pilgrims came to Jerusalem for this occasion, and according to the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit appeared to the believers there.

Symbolically for the Holy Spirit a white dove is very common, although it does not play a role in the biblical story, where instead the symbols fire and flames are mentioned. In addition, the Pentecost ox or the peonies are associated with this festival, with these symbols referring to the season. At Pentecost, the cattle were driven back to the alpine pastures after the harsh winter months, and the peony is considered a sign of maternal love, comfort, and healing.

South Tyrolean Pentecost Customs

In South Tyrol there are some ancient customs around Pentecost, such as in Mühlwald, where on this festival day the Holy Spirit is swung in a circular motion over the churchgoers. Especially in olden times, when very few people could read and write, these traditions helped to explain the story of salvation in a pictorial way. In the Sarntal Valley, the so-called "Pfingischtgrungln" are prepared for Pentecost, consisting of a dough made of flour, milk, water, egg, schnapps, and salt as well as a poppy seed filling. The Pfingischtgrungln are then fried in hot fat, sometimes using Kloatzen (dried pears) instead of the poppy seed filling. In the past, maids received some Grungln at Pentecost, which they then passed on to their lovers. But even today, they are still prepared in many households.

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