August. Villacher Kirchtag, Austria’s largest traditional festival

Villacher Kirchtag.

When? Normally every first Saturday in August and the week before. In 2022 from July 31st to August 7th.

Where? Villach, Austria. The traditional costume parade begins on Saturday August 6th at the Pestalozzistraße / Italienerstraße intersection. 

Meaning and history.
This festival  has been celebrated in Villach, Carinthia, every year since 1 August 1936. In 1225, Emperor Friedrich gave Villach the right to organize an annual fair 14 days before and 14 days after the Jacob’s Day (July 25). When World War II started in 1940, the celebrations were stopped. In 1948, it was decided to revive the tradition and the fifth Kirchtag became the first major event. In 1966, the Association “Villacher Kirchtag” established this holiday on the first Saturday of August.

How it is celebrated.
Today the “Villacher Kirchtag” consists of over than 130 different events. The highlight of this festival is on Saturday with the traditional folklore parade. More than 400,000 visitors have fun at the decorated center of Villach. On the main street of the old town, Hauptplatz, you can listen to the best Austrian folk music bands from the five stages and taste the finest Carinthian delicacies.

Young people enjoy the modern amusement park, which offers various attractions (every year there is something new!). Guests from all parts of Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia come to Villach to see the colorful folk costume parade with more than 3,500 participants and enjoy the festive atmosphere. It is a holiday for all ages and for all tastes.

Family traditions.
“My parents are from Slovenia, I was born in Villach”, Laura H. (16), a student, says. “Every summer my sister and I wait impatiently for the Kirchtag. We have very beautiful national costumes and every year we buy something new: bags, scarves or shoes. For me personally, Kirchtag means a lot of fun, colorful Hauptplatz, the delicious “Brett-Jause” and other specialties, folk dances from different European countries and the incredible attractions. I like the attractions very much, although it’s a “courage-test” for me. However, I think there is room for improvement: the public spaces are overcrowded, sometimes you can't relax because of all the noise and people. I wish also that the queues to the toilets would become shorter”. (July 2016)

Text: Vita Vitrenko, Photos: www.villacherkirchtag.at