Masks from Around the World: Europe

There are so many wonderful and varied masks throughout the world, we can in no way be comprehensive, but I have made a selection of a few from each continent to explore this week. Today we will be looking at Masks of Europe, in particular those from our own backyard. Please share info and images of masks from your own home country.

Here is a website called Masks of the World where you can explore even more examples and descriptions:

You can also explore more masks on this Pinterest Page:

From Germany we have Original Bubonic Plague Masks from the 17th century. This example is from the Deutsches Historisches Museum and was worn by doctors during that time:


This mask evolved into the bird-like masks and heavy costumes you see here.


The “beak” would be filled with herbs and flowers or sponges soaked in vinegar to reduce odors. It is also thought to be symbolic protection since people thought that the plague came from birds. I’m sure it also helped with social distancing.

Spring Celebration and Witch masks for Walpurgisnacht, an April 30th celebration for protection from witchcraft, that happens to coincide with May 1st, the “Witches Sabbath,” mainly celebrated in the Harz region of Germany. For a more detailed explanation see the I Am Expat website:…/walpurgisnacht-german-night-witch…


Perchtenmaske from Austria: Perchten is an ancient pagan (Percht was an Alpine goddess) festival meant to drive out the devils of winter in early December with a Perchtenlauf or parade of these devil like creatures through the center of Austrian village. In the nights between 25 December and 6 January it is custom for people to wear masks and dress up. It is therefore a once-in-a-year opportunity for those involved to behave badly without being punished, for example by stealing food or drinking to excess. At some point the figure of Krampus became integrated into the Perchta customs.

The Krampus masks are all about Krampuslauf, a procession that happens in December each year around Christmas when hundreds of costumed locals run through the streets of Alpine towns dressed as Krampus. (Austria, Italy and Germany) Krampus is a cross between goat and demon and its role in folklore is to punish kids who have been naughty.

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The Alpine Region also has their own version of Carnival called Fasnacht (Fasting Night/Shrovetide carnival). In The Tirol Region of Austria, this occurs only every five years, with a parade of over 900 men: masked figures and monsters, a procession to chase winter away and welcome spring with tons of drums and cowbells, shouting and staged battles. The traditional figures in the procession wear elaborate costumes, which along with wigs, masks, gloves, and hats leave barely any part of the skin uncovered. The masks are eye-catching, highly expressive works of art and differentiate between various characters: the “Scheller”, for instance, sports a beard, bushy eyebrows, and a darker skin tone, while the “Roller” embodies a youthful playfulness, with feminine eyes, rosy cheeks, and a smiling mouth.


Tschaggatta mask from Swiss Alps: When night falls, oversized masked figures rampage through streets in various villages between the Catholic holiday of Candlemass and Shrove Tuesday. They are not organized in groups and appear unexpectedly as they please. The spectacular and frightening masques chase children and spectators alike, and tossing soot at unsuspecting victims. The first official mention of the Tschäggättä occurs in a church chronicle dating back to the second half of the 19th century. The masks are handmade of Arvenholz – a local pine-related conifer easy to work with – by local carvers. They then are painted and adorned with all kinds of material that give them an even wilder appearance: large cow teeth and horns, wacky hairdos of long goat hair – the weirder the better. Check out a video here:…


Photo Source: Masks of the World (

Right after the new year in Bulgaria, groups of Kukeri don elaborate costumes with long goat hair bred especially for the costumes and grown over six years, complete with fantastical masks and belts of massive metal bells. The costumes themselves then take about eight months to create. The Kukeri are accompanied by musicians throughout the village, dancing rhythmically to drive away evil and invite good. Traditionally it was just men performing but now women are taking part as well. See a Great Big Story video here:
or National Geographic:


Spain and Portugal have their own terrifying mask traditions. See the Jaramplas, where a costumed monster is pelted with turnips, a festival that takes place on San Sebastien day in Piornal, Spain. He is meant to represent a sheep and goat thief who was driven away by the farmers with the only weapon they had on hand. See more here:…/jarramplas-turnip-festival-s…

Jarramplas Festival Held In Piornal—-
And the The Festival Internacional de Mascara Iberica which takes place annually in Lisbon the first weekend in May:…/

The Venetian mask is, of course the most commonly known from Europe, worn during Karneval and to disguise one’s identity and social status. Here is a website explaining the different typical masks of Venice, including their own Medico della peste (Plague Doctor):…/carnival-of-venice…/

In addition to these folk traditions, be sure to check out this contemporary mask maker Damsel Frau from Norway who will awe and inspire you with her beautiful headpieces:



Artful planet has an easy instruction page to make beautiful masks with your kids using cardboard:


Also take a look at these wonderful kids cardboard carnival masks on mini tallerd art here…


Here is a free downloadable Krampus mask for kids in colored version or outline:…/krampus-mask-template



What is a mask? A face covering or shield that can serve many different purposes. Some are for protection, some are for ceremony, some are to take on a different persona. What else can you think a mask could be used for?

-What kind of mask would you want to wear?

-What kind of mood would you want your mask to convey?

-Would you want to wear a Krampus or Tschaggatta mask to scare others?

-Do you feel like you could get away with being naughty if you were wearing a mask?

-What are the best and worst parts of wearing a mask?

Here is a recipe for Chiächlini, small cakes served by witches during the shrovetide carnival in the Lötschental:

For two kilos Chiächlini : Warm up 125 g butter, add 2.5 dl Cream, 300 g sugar, 1 pack vanilla sugar, 2 dl white wine, 2 dl Kirsch, 2 dl Bergamot, 1 small bottle lemon-flavour (Dr. Oetker). Beat 10 eggs, add a pinch of salt, mix it with the butter. Add 1 kilo flour and saffron. Sprinkle 1 kg flour and 2 baking powder packets on your kitchen table. Put the mixture on the flour bed and knead it until workable. Let the dough rest for two hours. Cut out and bake in frying oil. (Recipe from Andrea Ritler-Ebener, Wiler 13)

Make up your own dance to ward away evil spirits and bring good: bang on a pan or shake some bells. Best to do this around 7pm, when we are meant to celebrate the essential workers.

And Don’t forget:

Pictofolio Mask-making Contest Face Value

Make your own character mask: even if it doesn’t protect you from the virus it may stop you from touching your face, or stop others from coming near! An adult will probably have to supervise the submission.

Deadline May 31st


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