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Germany

For Bavaria and Saint George! A snowy start to the spring

Riders and their horses, as well as those on foot braved snow in this year's Easter Monday Georgiritt procession, in the Bavarian town of Traunstein. The event marks the change of the seasons and honors Saint George.

Hundreds of riders in the upper Bavarian town of Traunstein braved heavy snow for this year's traditional Easter Monday procession. Horses, some with carriages, proceed from the town to their destination accompanied by good old Bavarian oompah music.

The Georgiritt - in honor of Saint George - takes place in several communities across Bavaria, with most traditions dating back at least three centuries. Traunstein's is the most famous of all with hundreds of people, many in old-fashioned costume and on horseback, taking part.

The end point of the mini pilgrimage is the church of St. Vitus und Anna also known as the "Ettendorfer Kircherl," where believers traditionally pray for blessings for their farms and animals. If you ever travel on the main train line from Rosenheim to Salzburg, the chances are you'll be able to see it.

While the festival takes place on Easter Monday in Traunstein, the precise dates of the Georgiritt elsewhere depends where it's being celebrated. However, it's usually close to Saint George's Day, on April 23. George is the patron saint of horsemen, but it's the horses that receive most attention.

Participants dressed as Roman soldiers remember the life of Saint George, who it is said was born in about 280 AD, in the Holy Land. He became an imperial guard, stationed in Nicomedia, modern day Turkey. The saint is said to have been decapitated at the order of Emperor Diocletian for refusing to recant his belief in Christianity.

As well as horsemen, George is the patron saint of agricultural workers, fire brigade members, scouts and soldiers. In Traunstein, the event is a musical one, with plenty of band members turning out to play.

One of the events that accompanies the ride up to the church is the annual saber dance, featuring swords decked with flowers. It represents the victory of spring over winter, although this year's snow might have made that hard to believe.