Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, 60 days after Easter. Also known as The Feast of Corpus Christi, this is a national public holiday in Austria.
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Corpus Christi celebrates the body and blood of Jesus Christ and is included in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic church.
Corpus Christi is said to have been first observed when St. Juliana, a nun from Belgium, told the Bishop of Liege, Robert de Thorete, that she had a vision of a large festival to be held in his diocese. In 1311, 30 years after St. Juliana relayed her vision, Corpus Christi became an official feast day in the Catholic Church.
Mass is held in the morning on Corpus Christi. The service is elaborate with everyone in attendance participating. It is common to have children baptised at the Corpus Christi mass. After the service, there is a processional through the streets comprised of children who have just been baptised, organisations, community clubs and bands. Those in the processional carry flags and flower baskets before heading to the town square if there is one.
In some towns, the streets are lined with hazelnut and birch branches so that it appears as if the processional is moving through a forest. In others, boats in the harbour are decorated with birch leaves and fresh flowers. In Hallstat, two boats are decorated and when the processional reaches the harbour, the priest and other religious officials board one boat while the choir boards another. They then sail toward the centre of the lake with smaller boats following them, singing hymns. Afterward, the procession may return to the church where a benediction takes place.
The village of Perchtoldsdorf celebrates Corpus Christi ten days after the rest of Austria. Legend says that a Turkish siege delayed the celebration in Perchtoldsdorf one year while others insist that it is celebrated later because it never rains on that date, protecting the festival which is held outdoors.
During the ten days between the official celebration and the Perchtsoldsdorf celebration the village brass band travels through the town, playing outside homes. Residents of the home are expected to make a donation and to supply the band members with wine. If the weather is cold, residents replace the wine with schnapps to keep the band members warm as they travel from home to home.