How to see Oberammergau's unique (and delayed) once-a-decade Passion Play
Plan now for the Oberammergau 2022 Passion Play (delayed from 2020)
Once every 10 years, the Passion Play, the story of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, is performed in Oberammergau, a small Alpine village. It is a performance unlike any other in the world. All of the actors and musicians must come from this village. Every actor is a citizen of the mountain town of Oberammergau, deep in the Bavarian Alps.
Normally, this unique play would have been performed in 2020. However, because of the pandemic, it will now happen two years later, in 2022. This once-a-decade event always requires early planning, but there are still tickets and tour packages available.
In 2022, from the 14th of May until the 2nd of October, the play will echo through the village. As they have for almost four centuries, Oberammergau's villagers will perform the Passion Play, giving themselves over to the performance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
More than half of the town's population performs in some way in the Passion Play
[xyz-ihs snippet="Lead-Ad-2"]In the months leading up to this event, once clean-shaven policemen grow beards and bankers let their hair grow long. Tradition in this town holds that fake beards and wigs are strictly against the rules onstage. The "real" biblical look comes naturally. Villagers performing in the play aren’t allowed to cut their hair after Ash Wednesday a year before the show.
Why would a town and its descendants maintain this ritual for 385 years without fail? Why, in the face of modern secularism and the mobile family can this cluster of chalets set beneath soaring, snow-covered, jagged peaks, keep this commitment and allow the tradition to endure?
A friend and I attended the Passion Play in 2010. It was one of the most unforgettable events of my life. We flew into Munich and drove the hour-long drive to Oberammergau. We had a wonderful apartment in the middle of town and arrived during Spargel season (white asparagus season). Nearby is Linderhof Palace and Neuschweinstein, both built by King Ludwig. Garmisch, Germany, is nearby. A trip to see the Passion Play can be a complete vacation.
The Passion Play has developed from a pledge of the town after avoiding the worst of the plague
The play's remarkable story goes back to 1633, when the entire region surrounding Oberammergau was suffering from the "black death," abject poverty, and endless wars. The villagers made a solemn pledge to perform the Passion Play every ten years. Remarkably, the town was spared the worst of the pestilence and ravages of war. Ever since that salvation, their descendants have carried out that pledge.
Villagers are already rehearsing for the program. Those selected to play Jesus and Mary, Pontius Pilate, and the apostles, the priests, soldiers, and children are practicing their lines. The choir and the orchestra are beginning to memorize the memorable score, composed in the 19th century by Rochus Dedler — again, a resident of Oberammergau. The director, Christian Stückl, and his staff are all residents of Oberammergau.
Next year, the play starts in the afternoon and finishes as night falls, with a break for dinner. The timing of the play allows Christ to be crucified and die as night falls.
Packages to see the Passion Play
The best way to see the Passion Play is to purchase a package that includes at least a night in Oberammergau, with meals included. (The meals are important, since the play lasts all afternoon and evening. There is a break for dinner. Without a meal plan, the spectators would never get fed in time to return to the performance.)
The 2020/22 Passion Play premiere is on Saturday, May 14, 2022. From that point, the play takes place a total of 102 times, five days a week, with no performances on Mondays and Wednesdays. Each performance runs in the afternoon between 2:30 and 5 p.m. Dinner is then served at hotels and the final part of the play starts at 8 p.m. and ends at around 10:30 p.m.
The Passion Play website has details on tour operators who can arrange for tickets to performances, meals, and lodging. Expect to pay between $316 and $634 for a two-night package, with room and meals per person based on double occupancy. Also, when attending the play, all performed in German, make sure to purchase a libretto of the play. It will make all the difference to your enjoyment.
Note: Many of these tour operators include Passion Play tickets with other multi-day tours throughout Europe. Those who want to book a package can make reservations. Go here to make reservations for the purchase of individual tickets for between Euros 30 and Euros 180.
Warning — This notice is currently on the Passion Play website. Bottom line — Know what tour operator you plan to book through.
We have been alerted by consumers of offers for tickets for the Passion Play 2020 through Viagogo.
They offer tickets for the Passion Plays 2020 at prices many times higher than the regular ticket price. Viagogo states that performances are "sold out" or that "only a few tickets left." This information is not correct. Currently, there are still enough single tickets for the performances (except for the premiere day) on our website. Depending on the category, the prices range between EUR 30 and EUR 180.