Austria: National Customs and Folklore Treasures – Barrel Sliding

"Barrel sliding" is a custom practised in Kosterneuburg using a barrel dating from 1704. The "thousand-bucket barrel" has a capacity of 56,000 litres, and is kept in a vault of the monastery's book-bindery, the "Binderstadl".

Originally, the barrel was used to collect the tithe wine, but after the French emptied it completely in 1809, it was never filled again. The visitors climb up onto the barrel on one side and slide down across the staves on the other side. The custom has its roots in the fertility rite of sliding over "Mother Earth" in the hope of being blessed with children. There are similar customs in the Wachau and in Switzerland. According to legend, the custom began when the monastery tavern landlord was outwitted by his wife. Amongst his drinking companions, it was suggested that he would even slide over the large barrel if his wife asked him. His wife was amongst those who heard him dismiss this suggestion, feeling himself to be boss in his own household. She persuaded him to slide over the barrel at night, with nobody watching. However, in secret, she had concealed all his friends in the cellar. When they saw the landlord sliding across the barrel, they enjoyed it so much that they all copied him. The custom has existed ever since.

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