Every year at Prato dello Stelvio/Prad am Stilfserjoch
, a ceremony takes place that is unique in the entire Alps. We're talking about the traditional masked ball (the Maschgertanz)
, where dashing, highly spirited couples donning carnival masks go dancing from one tavern to another with precisely choreographed steps while making fun of anyone they happen to encounter along the way.
As soon as the masked dancers enter a tavern, the "Bajaz" (a sort of clown) inaugurates the performance. Dressed in a chequered suit, white collar and pointed hat adorned with colored ribbons and flowers, he waves a stick in time to the music, usually played on an accordion. There are eight masked couples standing in the wings, waiting for their turn to perform – but they are all men dressed up as men and women! The couples are dressed to represent couples from different social strata going from the 'gentleman and lady' who open the show, to what could be termed as 'the tough and his wench' (Zoch und Pfott), dressed in rags representing 'fertility'.