The bonfires in Montafon, Austria is a traditional event that takes place annually in the heart of the Montafon valley. This picturesque valley is in the western part of Austria and is well known for its stunning landscapes and winter sports.
Funkensonntag is a centuries-old tradition, pre-dating even Christianity and is celebrated on the first Sunday after carnival. The village sets fire to a layered wooden tower of up to 30 metres. This tradition is the last remnant of ancient sun worship, in which the burning of the flame-witch and the torch swinging on the mountain and in the valley, drives out the demons of winter and greets the light.
The assembly of the wooden tower takes 700 to 800 hours in which brushwood, straw and old Christmas trees are carefully layered to an artistic wood pile. At nightfall on Sunday, the bonfire is finally lit and is accompanied by torch swinging, but if the bonfire falls before the witch explodes, it is a bad omen. In such cases, the bonfire guild buries the witch on the following Sunday as part of a ceremony.
However, the event spreads out over the weekend starting on Friday, February 24th. In several villages, a so-called Funkenwache, bonfire guard, is held. Bonfire guards ensure that the wooden tower is not lit prematurely by the boys from the neighbouring villages. And while this prank is a tradition, it is more than just a harmless offence and is liable to prosecution today.
For children, there are Kinderfunken on Saturday and Sunday, where they can put together their own small bonfires and light them in the evenings. Accompanying the bonfire event are live-music, tasty food, and torch relays.
Want to be part of this spectacle? Then book your stay to be part of 'Bonfires in the Montafon' on the weekend of February 24th, 25th and 26th, 2023!
© Pictures: Montafon Business GmbH, Schruns, Patrich Säly & Andreas Haller