Austria’s National Day: 66 years of freedom
When? On 26 October.
The meaning and history. This important day commemorates the Declaration of Neutrality. On 26 October 1955, Austria was released after 10 years of occupation. Foreign troops left the country the day before. People could live in peace again without fear. Since 1955 neutrality has become a deeply ingrained element of Austrian identity.
Until 1964, this day was celebrated as a "Day of the Flag". Parliament decided to celebrate October 26 as a national holiday only in 1965.
How it is celebrated. The noticeable signs of the Austrian National Day are a showcase of the armed forces, a speech by the Federal President, a festive meeting of the Council of Ministers and "marches for fitness", which are organized around the country to raise awareness among the population about the benefits of fitness. The citizens are offered to visit the federal museums for free. Family dinners, meetings of the friends, trips and talks are the essential part of the holiday.
Villach’s Mayor Günther Albel appeals to youth with a speech about this national holiday and freedom. On this day young people can ask the mayor any questions they like.
National Day at the school. "Young people should know the history of their homeland", Mag. Gerlinde Kranner, a director of the primary school 1 (VS 1) in Villach, says. She has been leading VS 1 for years and introduces her own traditions. Every Friday early in the morning, all the pupils and teachers get together in the gym to greet each other and to sing songs. It's the same is on 26 October. “As a school-leader, I appeal to the children and colleagues with a few words about our national holiday, our flag and the values of democracy and freedom in our country”.
Mrs. Kranner says that children from 37 nations learn at her school! “For me, the knowledge of the cultures and friendly cooperation is particularly important. We want our pupils to know Austrian culture and traditions, holidays and festivals. On the other hand, we also ensure that our children do not lose the roots of their homelands. They should know the most important fairy tales and myths of their country, celebrate typical holidays, tell stories and poems, and respect their customs. We have a library when children can find books in their native languages. It is exactly what we want to achieve”.
On the national holiday Mrs. Kranner with her family always gather for the festive meal. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about the present and future. This time our conversation will probably be about the refugee situation”.
Text und Photos: Vita Vitrenko