"Larchzieh'n" means tree trunk pulling, it is one of the oldest traditions in Umhausen. In the past, the tree trunk pulling event took place only if no young man got married within the last calendar year. This happened for the last time in 1968. A few years later, in 1996, this old tradition was revived thanks to an initiative by Edi Scheiber and his companions. Since 2000 the traditional "Larchzieh'n" event is scheduled every 5 years - much to the pleasure of Umhausen's unmarried young men. Three cheers for all of them!
Tree trunk pulling called "Larchzieh'n" signs the highlight of carnival season in Umhausen and the entire Ötztal valley. As documents prove, tree trunk pulling was a widespread custom in many villages of the Tirolean Oberland region in the early 20th century. In Umhausen larch tree trunks were used and only unmarried young men were allowed to pull the heavy trunks through the village.
Records indicate that tree pulling ranks among Europe's oldest traditions during carnival. The first documents describing carnival events are dating back to the early 13th century. Between 1200 and 1400 historical papers prove the existence of themed events and programs. Later in the 14th and 16th centuries the single carnival highlights were organized in a more systematic way, including parades of active carnival groups and spectators. Tree trunk pulling was first mentioned around 1450: this old custom focuses on mocking at young men of marriageable age who make a parade through the village. Most of the time also young women and old maids were harnessed to the heavy tree trunk, a de-branched larch or stone pine tree. In 1460 Archduke Sigismund der Münzreiche ("rich in coin" was his nickname), ruler of Tirol, mentioned "Larchzieh'n" already in his accounts book. At the beginning there was just an unorganized crowd and no real parade accompanying the tree trunk pullers. Only later real festival parades were organized also for other carnival groups and spectators.
In the past, the event used to take place only on Ash Wednesday - one of the reasons why this old tradition focuses on the MARRIAGE.
Carnival time is still one of the favorite wedding seasons as the end of carnival signs the beginning of Lent. It was an ancient Catholic custom to abstain from eating meat and sexual activity. On Ash Wednesday, the first day of the fasting period, the chance to get married was over once and for all.
Fortunately the tree trunk pulling tradition has been maintained in Umhausen. Today the giant larch trunk is accompanied by a festive parade and the outstanding Sterzingermoos cart. Bride and groom meet for the wedding ceremony in the village center. In all Europe, marriages are the number one topic of parodist theater performances and carnival parades, including also the "plundering ride" of the young couple. In former times the bride's dowry was placed on a separate cart which was brought directly to the groom's house. It was of utmost importance to show in public what the bride contributed to her future family life. The most precious dowry pieces were fixed to the cart so that everyone could see them.
Among Umhausen's most important carnival customs ranks the "court of rebuke" which reveals local occurrences and affairs that happened secretly in the last years. Thanks to the crazy carnival season it is allowed - and strongly recommended - to make fun of politicians, neighbors and all other locals. The sophisticated "Sterzingermoos" cart represents another highlight of the parade. Legend has it that all unmarried old maids were brought to the Sterzinger Moos marshlands in order to do penance. The same happened to all unmarried men, they were sent to a nearby mountain in the vicinity of the forlorn marshlands. The punishment consisted in being compelled to do useless things - such as polishing rocks or moving clouds. What's most important: the unmarried men must pull the tree trunk without stopping all across the village. The parade is followed by an auction that includes not only the giant tree trunk but also other pieces of wood provided by local companies, private persons and agricultural associations. There are only few other carnival events looking back on such a deeply rooted tradition: larch tree trunk, wedding couple, court of rebuke and Sterzingermoos cart are highlights not to be missed when it comes to traditional "Larchzieh'n" in Umhausen. German source: „VOKUS" Dr. Petra Streng, Dr. Gunther Bakay