Ever heard of "Rauhnächte"?

The days are getting shorter, the nights longer and longer. It is dark outside, the cold is getting more noticeable, and moves into our homes. During evenings, people prefer to heat the stove and snuggle under the blankets. Sometimes, mystical stories are told about ghosts and mythical creatures. A time that makes you reflect and radiate thoughtfulness.

Mythical nights around Christmas time

Myths revolving around sinister figures persist in our region as well. On four days of the year, they are given special attention:

  • 20/21 December: Thomas Night
  • 24/25 December: Christmas Eve
  • 31 December/1 January: New Year's Eve
  • 5/6 January: Epiphany night

They are all occurring on or around the turn of the year and are called 'Rauhnächte'. A myth says that on these nights demons and spirits roam around the houses and spread bad luck. Even today, people lock their doors and windows on these nights and make sure that the house is tidy. Particulary disorder attracts the ghosts. Laundry is not hung up either. Souls of the deceased could get caught here. The more people you ask about these nights, the more legends and stories emerge.

Cultivating traditions

In order to protect yourself from the evil of the spirits, people burn incense on the mentioned nights. This ritual is similar in most families. In my case, for example, the whole family meets at my grandparents' house. There, my grandpa prepares the smoking pan with embers from the oven. Most of the time, my brother places air-dried gum resin (Weihrauch) that create a base for the smoke. Together we now go from room to room to really catch any evil. After we have been in all the rooms, the men go around the house three times to establish protection. Eventually, I go to pick up my grandpa's hat. We hold the hat above the smoke and put it on our heads three times in a row. This is to avoid headaches in the new year. At the end we conclude the evening with a warm noodle soup and hope that we will be spared from disasters in the new year.

Incense in different variations

Incense is not only practiced with hot coal and air-dried gum resin. People also like to tie bundles of incense, which are then lit. After the incense process is finished, you can put them in sand to extinguish them. If you wish to be creative, you can make your own herbal mixtures. Dried, native herbs can be used for this purpose. Sage, mugwort or sheep's fork are good choices. Dried flowers or bark can be used as well. Depending on your mood, you can experiment here.

Incense as an all-rounder

Many people use incense not only on the so-called Rauhnächte. Especially after recovering from an illness, incense is a nice ritual for new beginnings and the expulsion of bad energy. However, this custom should not exclusively be associated with negative events. The scents during incense smoking cause good mood, are harmonizing, inspiring and calming. After that, the body and mind are in harmony and open for new experiences.

Photos: LOLIN, Klaus Bauer, Daria Rom and Anup Ghag on Unsplash