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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How to celebrate Easter like an Austrian

From cakes in the shape of a baby lamb to 'Green Thursday', Easter in Austria can feel a little different. Here's your guide to the festivities.

Easter egg decorations
ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Easter traditions begin in Austria in the weeks leading up to the big day, as shops and bakeries start to fill up with seasonal goods such as Osterpinzen (a kind of sweet bread roll), Schinken im Brotteig (ham in a bread crust), colourful hardboiled eggs and cakes in the shape of a baby lamb (Osterlamm). 

Here are some examples of what the Osterlamm might look like – and one of a pretty sad looking little lamb. 

For those unsure why a lamb-shaped cake should take centre stage this time of year, here is a brief explanation of its history and purpose during Easter time.

As well as looking cute, delighting children, and tasting nice, Osterlamm has a serious side.

There are lots of different Osterlamm recipes available online – most requiring a lamb-shaped cake form – but the ready-made version is also easy to pick up from certain shops in Austria.

The following link breaks down the Osterlamm and at least tries to answer why it is so important for Austrians. 

READ MORE: ‘Osterlamm’ and what it means to Austria

Decorations

Many people decorate their homes with an Easter centrepiece arrangements of Palmkätzchen (also known as Palmbuschen, Palmkatzln, Palmkatzerl or pussy willow in English) and decorated wooden eggs, though some people add other foliage to the decoration. 

Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday) is celebrated in Austria by the blessing of Palmkätzchen rather than palms.

An Austrian folk custom says that if you bury these blessed Palmkätzchen, they protect your fields from bad weather during the year.

Green Thursday

Maundy Thursday follows or Gründonnerstag (Green Thursday), as it is known in Austria. It is traditional to eat spinach and other green foods such as kale, herbs or salads on this day, hence the name.

On this day in much of Austria and also in Catholic areas of Germany it is said the church bells fall silent and “fly to Rome”, so children are tasked with making a noise with wooden rattles to announce the times of day and call for church services.

READ MORE: What does Gründonnerstag mean in Austria?

In some parts of Austria, groups of boys walk from house to house with baskets and their ratchets to collect eggs.

Good Friday

Karfreitag (Good Friday) is not really celebrated by Catholics and is no longer a public holiday for Protestants living in Austria.

Easter fires

The most elaborate Easter rituals in Austria are said to be in Styria and Carinthia, where   on the Saturday before Easter (Holy Saturday or Karsamstag) it is common to have a bonfire or Osterfeuer outside together with family and friends.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, there will be restrictions on traditional Easter bonfires. In Carinthia they will only be allowed in public between 6am and 8pm in Carinthia.

The number of participants will also be limited.

Traditional Easter bonfires will be restricted this year in Austria. Image: AFP

Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday in Austria, children enjoy Easter egg hunts and a large Saturday dinner and/or Sunday breakfast with ham, coloured eggs, Osterpinzen bread and special cakes. Church bells ring out, having returned from Rome.

A popular game is Eierpecken (egg pecking), in which people bang coloured eggs together until they break. Then the winner has to eat the eggs. 

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RENTING

Am I allowed to sublet my rental apartment in Austria?

If you are a renter and want to rent out your apartment or get someone to rent a spare room, you need to know the Austrian laws first.

Am I allowed to sublet my rental apartment in Austria?

With the cost of living on the rise and housing demand increasing, subletting has become an attractive option for many tenants in Austria. It can help offset rental costs or generate extra income. However, it’s important to consider the legal implications and potential risks before proceeding.

Firstly, Austrian law defines a main tenancy when the owner rents a house or flat. If the primary tenant sublets a flat or living space, this constitutes a sublease, according to the definition by the state-backed organisation MieterHilfe.

An entire flat can be sublet or just a part of it (such as a room for sole use, including shared use of the kitchen, bathroom, and toilet).

READ ALSO: The vocab you need to understand apartment ads

Can I sublet the property I rent?

It depends on many factors. Firstly, though, the Tenancy Act, the set of rules that guides every rental agreement in Austria, explicitly does not allow a main tenant to sublet the entire rental property on a permanent basis without the landlord’s permission.

This means that if you want to move out of the place you are renting and then sublet it to someone else, the main tenancy agreement can be terminated. The grounds for termination exist even if the main tenant passes on the rental property in its entirety free of charge unless the rental property has been passed on to close relatives of the main tenant who have already lived there with them.

So, if you are the main tenant in an apartment living with a roommate who sublets, it’s recommended that you make the necessary changes to the rental contract if you leave the place. You should then ask the person who is staying there to be the new main tenant. 

In Austria, rental agreements often include specific points detailing the types of subletting that are allowed—and usually prohibiting subletting the entire place. 

READ ALSO: Is it better to rent or buy in Austria right now?

What if my rental contract doesn’t specify the rules?

If your contract does not include a clause on subletting, the rules that apply are those in the Tenancy Act.

As mentioned, the complete subletting of the rental property – with you effectively and permanently moving out – constitutes grounds for termination of the rental agreement. 

However, there’s an exception: “The reason for termination is only not given if the main tenant is only temporarily absent (e.g. a one-year stay abroad for training purposes) and it is clear from the outset that the main tenant will be living in the rented property again regularly in the foreseeable future.”

Partial subletting, such as renting out a room, is generally permitted. The property owner can only forbid it in cases where their “important interests are violated.” MieterHilfe mentions an example of the subtenant already known as someone with “unpleasant behaviour” or if there could be issues with overcrowding in the flat. 

READ ALSO: What happens when my rental contract expires in Austria?

There are also specific rules on how much rent can be charged for a sublease. In general, if one of two bedrooms is rented (with shared use of the remaining part of the flat), the main tenant can only charge a maximum of 75 percent of the rent and 50 percent of other rent “components”, such as Betriebskosten, or “operating costs”. 

There are stricter rules for those living in municipal housing and under certain provisions of the Tenancy Act, so it’s always worth consulting with renters’ associations or a lawyer if you have any questions or specifics you’d like to discuss. 

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