Garbed in colourful folk costume, and wearing grotesque masks and towering head ornaments, villagers danced and paraded through the tiny streets of St.
Garbed in colourful folk costume, and wearing grotesque masks and towering head ornaments, villagers danced and paraded through the tiny streets of St. Johann in Pongau, Austrian Tyrol, Jan six in the traditional "Perchten race" ( a Perchten is a sort of fairy).
Said to be of Germanic origin, the "Perchten race" - held once every four years at the time of the Winter solstice - symbolizes the coming of Spring, and is a time of rejoicing for villagers cut off so often by heavy snowfalls in Winter.
First in the procession were the "Heralds of Spring", followed by three magicians mounted on beautiful horses. After them came an old crone who swept away Winter with her broom. Winter is represented in this centuries old tradition by grotesque masks.
Spring and new life are represented by beautiful maidens, and boys wearing towering head pieces decorated with mirrors and other symbolic trappings.
Winter sports visitors joined in the carnival spirit as men dressed as monkeys clambered up poles and on to roofs, where they pelted the spectators with snowballs.