... that the lighting of the solstice fires in the Danube region of Lower Austrian was first documented more than 400 years ago? The custom was cultivated and preserved in the Wachau to an extent virtually unmatched anywhere else.
From sun cult to a magical fest
Solstice celebrations remain widespread in many European countries to the present day but there is little verified knowledge and countless theories about their origins. Most researchers assume they are vestiges of an archaic sun cult practiced by the Celts, Slavs and Germans. Whether they actually are cannot be verified or refuted.
The oldest solstice celebrations in Lower Austria corroborated by sources were staged in Rosenburg am Kamp in 1604 and in Klosterneuburg in 1609. From the late 17th c onward, large numbers of these celebrations are well-documented throughout what is present-day Lower Austria. The most extensive festivities were in the Wachau and the Nibelungengau. In the Age of Enlightenment, they were banned for about a century, not to be revived again until the second half of the 19th c, where they were transformed into boisterous folk festivals.
About this same time, the solstice celebrations in the Wachau gained considerable international prominence for the first time thanks to the travelogues of authors and journalists. The contemporary visitors were apparently especially impressed by the glitter of the thousands of lights sent down the Danube on tiny boats. They went into poetic raptures about this experience, as you can read in the archives or feel for yourself on site at the next celebration. Beautifully authentic and authentically beautiful.
Dates in 2020:
June 20 - Solstice in the Wachau
June 27 - Magic Fire in the Nibelungengau