Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Bonfire Sunday

Applicant: Mag. Hanno Platzgummer i.V. Funkenzunft Oberdorf
Province: Vorarlberg
Domain: Social Practices
Year of inclusion: 2010

The celebration of Bonfire Sunday (“Funkensonntag“), a holiday on the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday, is commonplace throughout the whole of Vorarlberg. Each community organizes its own bonfire (“Funken”). Vorarlberg’s largest city, Dornbirn, is famous for having several bonfires, which are arranged by a variety of bonfire guilds.

The first records about the tradition of Bonfire Sunday go back to the 11th century (this date is not fully verified, however). It has been said that these records could be a relic of a pagan spring cult, even if this tradition’s function and elements have changed drastically over time. For example in the past, bonfires were used primarily to burn deadwood left over after spring-cleaning houses and meadows. Today people still burn old Christmas trees on this Sunday.