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Oberammergau sets hair restrictions ahead of Passion Play


Birgit Gudjonsdottir

John Burger - published on 02/17/21

Unless you're portraying a Roman soldier, you may not get a haircut.

As a sign that a centuries-old tradition in Germany will not succumb to COVID-19, the Bavarian town of Oberammergau has once again imposed its traditional ban on shaving and getting a haircut.

The Hair and Beard Decree, imposed on Ash Wednesday, requires participants in the Passion Play 2022 to grow their hair and beards again, helping actors to “grow” into the roles they will play.  

The Play of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ has been performed every 10 years since 1633 in fulfilment of a vow townspeople made when they were threatened by a deadly plague. A modern plague — the novel coronavirus that emerged in late 2019 and has led to a global pandemic — forced organizers of the 2020 edition to postpone the event until 2022. The premiere is set for May 14 of that year, bringing hundreds of townspeople to the stage and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the town southwest of Munich. 

“The Hair and Beard Decree is a very old tradition,” said Passion Play director Christian Stückl, in a statement. “Whereas in the past only men were called upon to let their hair and beards grow — women wore their hair long anyway — the Decree now equally applies to both sexes.” 

A press release noted that no one really knows when the tradition concerning hair and beards began. It is assumed that the Decree dates back about 200 years, when the people from Oberammergau began to mount more than 50 performances per season to the stage. At the beginning, only three or four dates were listed on the program, which probably would not have been worth the effort. Now posters and advertisements are announcing the beginning of the 15-month ban on hairdressing. 

“This is the moment from which we begin to feel the enthusiasm for the Passion Play in Oberammergau even more,” said Andreas Rödl, mayor. Rödl himself has been part of the performance from an early age, and can still remember his first Passion Play at the age of five. In 2022, he will be in the choir — this time with long hair, because in his former job as a police officer, he was eligible only for “short hair roles.”

Those who portray Roman soldiers, helpers behind the scenes, and orchestra members are the only ones exempt from the Decree. 

But in reality, because of the Bavarian mask requirement during the COVID pandemic, the Beard Decree is not as strict as usual this year. “The focus is clearly on hair. It takes some time until the hair has the desired length,” Stückl said.

Youth Days

Also announced on Wednesday was advance ticket sales for Youth Days at Oberammergau, which for the first time will bring the Passion Play closer to visitors between the ages of 16 and 28. 

“The initiative goes back to teaching young people the fascination of the life and death of Christ and, above all, the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play,” Stückl commented. On two days of the final rehearsals on May 7 and 8, 2022, only young people will be sitting in the audience. There will be an introduction to the origins of the Passion Play, and young visitors will have an opportunity to exchange ideas with the performers about this lived tradition, as well as about cultural and religious aspects of the play. The Youth Days are non-denominational and are aimed at all nationalities. In addition to heavily discounted ticket prices, accommodation is also offered at special prices. 

The Play of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ will take place in 2022 for the 42nd time and have 103 performances, ending on October 2, 2022. Some 2,400 people from Oberammergau will take part, including around 500 children.


Read more:
Oberammergau announces ticket sales for 2022 Passion Play


Read more:
Oberammergau Passion Play to be postponed for two years

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