Posted by: Nazausgraben | December 28, 2010


Ahhh..the Hola Hola Buben have just appeared; underway since before sunrise, eight young  lads (6-9 years old) from Unterpinswang are making their appointed rounds from house to house.  It is the very early morning of 28 December…the day known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Tag der unschuldigen Kinder). The boys are blowing with all their might on hunting horns and chanting “Hola Hola” which (in the local dialect) I believe means something akin to “your money or your life!”. They appear at each door or gate, making as much racket as possible to so as to awaken the miscreant adults who have the gall to still be asleep. The boys are armed to the teeth with long pointy wooden sticks with which to whack us guilty adults. Of course, with an Euro in the Geldbeutl’ (usually a small tin can with a slot in the top…hanging over coats and sweaters by a leather band looped about each child’s neck) for each, the unspoken threat of a beating happily never comes to fruition.

Why are the adults guilty and the kids innocent on this particular day?  The Hola Buben tradition originates with the recognition of the frightful historical event known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Tag der unschuldigen Kinder) when Herod “the Great”, King of Judea, ordered his troops to slaughter all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two; this in an attempt to find and murder the newborn baby Jesus who, Herod believed, posed a threat to the latter’s reign; a potential usurper of Herod’s throne.  This horrific episode is thus remembered  as a feast day that The Church added to the calendar sometime during the 5th century.

It is not only in Pinswang that the Tag der unschuldigen Kinder is recognized; male children throughout Austria make similar rounds to most homes in their villages. For example, in the region of southeastern Austria known as the Steiermark, small groups of young children will approach a house yelling “‘Frisch und G’sund!”…essentially exhorting adult occupants to be “Happy and Healthy” during the coming year. As with their Pinswanger counterparts, they carry bundled branches and sticks, but invariably never use them as a Euro or Two is plunked into the Geldbeutl’. The style and approach may vary, but the meaning is the same; adults are reminded that such horrendous cruelties against children have existed and continue to this day.

Now, it occurs to me that some from the Barbarian lands outside of Pinswang might not look kindly on this practice of being awakened each blistery cold dark 28 December by blaring horns and bands of weaponized 6 to 9-year olds yelling one out of a warm ensconcing bed….to recall a massacre that occurred more than 2,000 years ago.

Happily, to those here in Pinswang and elsewhere throughout the Tirol, what others might believe in this regard is really of no consequence. Despite the homogenization of an increasingly blind looking glass globalist world, these national traditions continue to live and flourish in the hearts and minds of those many who continue with pride to embrace their culture, religion and history.  I have little doubt that the Hola Buben and their many counterparts who bring the joy, wonder and great beauty of the Christmas season to life will still be wandering the snowy paths from village to village long after the less enlightened voices have faded away into the purple Winter night. 

The Hola Hola Buben turn, blow their horns and, cutting across the expansive snow buried neighbors fields, make their ways back to home, a warm breakfast and under the bed covers to count their spoils.

The Hola Buben head for home.

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