Christmas traditions in Pinzgau
In the Pinzgau region, it’s an old Christmas tradition to get out the grindstone on 24 December to sharpen the kitchen knives and other household blades. It’s said that doing so will keep any blade perfectly sharp for a long time, or at least until Christmas next year. The old hut forge in Leogang is, once again, opening its doors on 20 December and welcomes anyone who might want a chance to look over the blacksmiths’ shoulders as they practice their craft, whilst also having the opportunity to enjoy some mulled wine and Christmas cookies.
24 December is still sometimes referred to as “Bachitag” in Pinzgau. The traditions surrounding the day are as diverse as the spelling of the day itself (Bachel, Bachö, Bache). The “Bachikoch” — a mash made from flour, milk and honey — is the quintessential Christmas lunch around here. And the “Rach’n geh” practice —fumigating the house with incense and herbs — remains an indispensable part of the region’s Christmas rituals to this day.
Prior to a cosy indoor get-together with the family to celebrate the Christmas festivities, the farmers used to have to complete a few last tasks on their farms. This included sharpening all the knives of the house on 24 December. Sigmund Riedlsperger, who organises the old hut forge in Leogang-Hütten, recounts: “A sharp knife was especially important on Christmas, as the fruit loaf could end up a little too hard from time to time. Or, it may also have been needed to cut thin slices of the Bachi bacon from the smokehouse. In the meantime, a farmhand would get the Bachiboschn from the forest — a little spruce tree, which would be pulled through the chimney all the way from above in order to remove soot and grime.”
The hut forge in Leogang, which has been dated all the way back to 1599, was restored by Siegmund Riedlsperger and his colleagues a few years ago as an exhibition forge and can be visited every Wednesday between May and October. On 20 December, however, the old forge opens its doors for the traditional “Bachischneid” tradition and Siegmund Riedlsperger explains, “This year, we will be on site again with our blacksmiths starting at 13:00 in order to create some expertly sharpened blades. Visitors can relax with mulled wine, tea and fruit loaf, whilst we work the knives on our grindstones. It is said that the Bachischneid tradition ensures that knives stay sharp throughout the whole year. The secret is sharpening the blade using natural stone and running water.”
Whilst Adam Grunder, retired blacksmith from Saalfelden, starts the fire in the forge and quickly makes a few nails by hand, the old grinder begins to rattle at full blast. “You have to carefully whet the knife until only a very thin string remains on the blade,” he explains while approaching the grindstone with a large kitchen knife. “Then I pull off the string by hand. While us blacksmiths are busy sharpening the knives, the Bachischneid Day is always an interesting, entertaining and social event for visitors,” says Adam Grundner, promising that guests always end up having a lot of fun.
Bergbau- & Gotikmuseum Leogang