Customs of the Principality of Liechtenstein

Most of Liechtenstein's customs come from the Catholic religious calendar, although some stem from Pagan origins. The year starts with New Years celebrations in a similar tradition to the rest of the world. The alpine winter does mean that the 'Silvester' parties are not as prominent as in other towns and cities.

Twelfth night (or Three Kings as they call it) sees 3 regal visitors calling on locals. Unlike the British tradition that the Christmas tree must be removed on twelfth night, the trees generally don't go up until Christmas Eve, and they will stay as long as they look good.

Fasnacht Revellers

The next major event in the Liechtensteiner's calendar is the start of Lent. Fasnacht (also know as Mardi Gras in the US) starts on the 11th November at 11:11am and works to a high point during the final week before the beginning of Lent, culminating on Shrove Tuesday. You will find Masquerade Balls throughout the area, and colourfully dressed people of all ages falling out of bars, clubs and halls at all times of day and night. If you like to party - Fasnacht is the time for you.

Funken Sonntag Bonfire, burning the winter witchesJust after Fasnacht the population burn the winter witches on very tall bonfires on the Funken Sonntag (Bonfire Sunday). This is obviously one of the pagan celebrations carried over to the modern day.

After Lent, comes Easter, and this is celebrated in a very traditional way. Church is generally still at the centre of the community for Easter, and it is not uncommon to find children hunting for Easter eggs around the gardens of Liechtenstein.

In May, Liechtensteiners enjoy a number of bank holidays, all linked to religious holidays, and with the improving weather, many locals can be found on the mountain paths enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

The Field Mass on the National HolidayThe next major event in the country is the national holiday, colloquially called the Prince's Birthday as it was the birthday of the previous Prince, Franz Josef II. The Fürstenfest, as it is called, takes place on the 14th August and starts with a field mass outside the castle of Vaduz. The streets of Vaduz are transformed to accommodate the trestle tables, food and drink stalls and bandstands for all different types of music on offer. The local bus service runs free of charge so that no one has to contemplate driving. The day is rounded off with an aerial display. Volunteers carry torches onto the mountain peaks, and along the main mountain paths in a Facklezug (torch procession), followed by a spectacular firework display from the castle and its grounds.

The firework displays for the national holiday

More religious holidays follow through September and into October. The American fashion of celebrating Halloween has captured the Liechtensteiner's party mentality, though the religious festival on the following day is still observed. The 11th of November is Armistice Day in most other countries, but in the Rhineland, through Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany, it signals the start of Fasnacht, though Christmas does dilute the Fasnacht parties, though this is only replaced by Christmas festivities.

On the 6th December, you would see St Nikolaus wandering through the streets of the villages of Liechtenstein, accompanied by Schwarzen Peter (Black Peter). They visit the children giving the good ones fruit and sweets and the naughty children are threatened with a piece of coal.

Christmas markets are very popular at this time of year, finishing just before the festivities. They are in no way as large as their German counterparts, but they are fun events, nonetheless. Christmas itself is a family affair, the Christmas tree normally being erected after the children go to bed on the 23rd. The living rooms (where possible) are locked during Christmas Eve and only after a family dinner do the children get to see the decorations and their presents.