The Oberammergau Passion Play has been taking place in the town of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps since 1634. This means that the inhabitants of Oberammergau have been delivering on their vow for almost 400 years When the plague raged in Germany in 1633, the inhabitants of Oberammergau vowed to perform the Passion Play regularly. From that day onwards, nobody else died of the plague. As of 1680, the Passion Play has been performed every ten years. In the meantime, the Oberammergau Passion Play has grown into a major event that is renowned worldwide and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The Passion Play takes place five times a week from mid-May to early October every ten years. The events between Palm Sunday and Easter are presented in more than 100 performances of close to six hours each. All of the close to 2000 cast members, from the ushers to the actors and choir members, were either born in Oberammergau or have lived there for at least 20 years.
More than 2000 cast members (children and adults) give the audience an opportunity to see and hear the story of Jesus of Nazareth during an almost six-hour performance on the large open-air stage of the Passion Theater. With great devotion, almost half of the inhabitants of Oberammergau act out the story of the man whose message has been giving unbelievable numbers of people hope and the power to live for over 2000 years, from the scene of his entry into Jerusalem all the way to his death on the cross and his resurrection.
People have been putting on plays in Oberammergau for as long as one can remember - there are true dynasties of amateur actors here, and it is not rare to see four different generations of one and the same family on-stage at the same time. The so-called hair-and-beard decree is announced about one year before the Passion Play begins. From then on, all of the inhabitants who are in the cast let their hair and beards grow until the end of the play.
There are diverse reasons for the enormous crowds drawn by the Passion Play, but one of them is sure to be the special character of the play. It is a play of mysteries that depicts the Passion of Christ in a form that is both dramatic and meditative at the same time. Between the scenes, pictures with living persons indicate events from the Old Testament for the purpose of theological interpretation and represent meditative cesuras. At the same time, the touching music lends the play the character of an oratory in which the choir, the orchestra, and the soloists let the audience experience the story even more intensely.