Bavarian traditions - a selective overview

Bavaria is well-known for its bigger festivals and events like the "Oktoberfest" in Munich and the "Christkindlsmarkets" like in Munich, Nuremberg or Rothenburg. We want to show you a little bit more about the Bavarian style of living, the traditions, festivals and events.
 

Traditional Festivals and Events in Bavaria
 

January/February

  • International New Year's ski jumping Garmisch-Partenkirchen
    The New Year's Ski Jump in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is traditionally the second jump of the Four Hills Tournament. The historic tour is one of the highlights of the ski jumping season.
    Tourist Information Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Tel.: +49 (0)8821 180700, Fax: +49 (0)8821 180755, E-Mail: tourist-info@gapa.de, www.garmisch-partenkirchen.de
     
  • Hornschlittenrennen (sledge race on a traditional sledge)
    A "Hornschlitten" is a traditional sledge which allowed the transportation of  hay and wood down into the valley during winter times in earlier days. Today , mostly around carnival time, there are some spots in the Bavarian and Allgaeu Alps where people, sometimes in costumes, race down the hill and over big jumps.
    Bavarian Championship of wooden sleigh racing , Tourist Information Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Tel.: +49 (0)8821  180700, Fax: +49 (0)8821  180755, E-Mail: tourist-info@gapa.de, www.garmisch-partenkirchen.de
     
  • Schäfflertanz (Dance of the coopers)
    All the 7 years between Epiphany and Mardi Gras (06.01.-05.03.19) will be held the Schäfflertanz. Schäfffler are Fassmacher (coopers, barrel makers) whose profession slowly dying out after the Brewers more and more switching to aluminum barrels and containers. The coopers were first publicly 1517.
     
  • Fasching (Carnival)
    Carnival in Bavaria begins in early January and ends at Shrove Tuesday. There are a lot of different traditions all over Bavaria. In some regions  people wear old masks ("Larven") which make them look like demons and in processions the noisy crowd intends to drive out the winter. In other regions people wear costumes and ski down hills or take part in a "Hornschlittenrennen" as mentioned above.

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March/April

  • Strong Beer Season
    Strong lent beer had already been served during this period of carneval since the mid 15th century. Monks brewed lent beer, because they weren't allowed to eat during this period. All these strong beers have the suffix "-ator" in their name, like: "Delicator", "Triumphator", "Animator" and so on. One of the most famous events during the Starkbierzeit (Strong Beer Saison in Bavaria) takes place at the "Nockerberg" where a barrel of "Salvator" is tapped and the politicians have to face their critics in a very humorous way - which is called "Derblecken".
     
  • Easter
    In true Bavarian style Easter is celebrated with a mixture of ancient traditions and 21st century goodies: “Palmbüscheln” to be blessed on Palm Sunday, Easter Bunny (Osterhase), coloured eggs, kids searching for eggs kindly left by the “Osterhase”, roast lamb lunch, Easter lamb cake and more.
    The decoration of the Easter wells, perhaps the most charming custom in the Fränkische Schweiz, has experienced a great revival in the last few years and has become a popular attraction. The main reason for decorating the wells and springs lies primarily in the significance of water as the life-giving element for the arid plateaux of the Fränkische Alb (Franconian Alps).
     
  • Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday)
    First of all, Palm Sunday is a religious feast-day. But beside the religious meaning  it always makes people call the one who gets out of bed last this day the "Palmesel" (palm donkey). This is because the donkey is said to be a lazy and easy-going animal. So never get up to late that day (Sunday before Easter), else someone might call you the "Palmesel".
    Or simply appeal to the bible: "The latter will be first!"

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May/June

  • Maibaum aufstellen (Maypole raising)
    Every year there is fierce competition between the towns and cities in Bavaria for where the highest (some up to over 90 feet) and most majestic pole is erected.  The Maypole can look different in each region.  In some places it is planted with the tree bark, and in others it is stripped and painted blue-and-white, hung with colorful ribbons, decorated with carved figures and adorned with a wreath. The pole is erected by without technical assistance just with  thick, long rods (“Schaibeln”) bound together into “Scheren”. This work can stretch out over two hours. In neighbouring communities the young men's associations often try to steal the maypole. According to a custom the stolen pole has to be redeemed by a ransom consisting of beer and food which both communities share together.
     
  • Meistertrunk (The Master's Draught) in Rotheburg ob der Tauber
    Every Whitsun this event is recreated when hundreds of citizens dress up in period costume and take part in the "Master Draught", as well as a historical procession and a variety of military camps.
     
  • Pfingsten (Whitsun)
    Bavaria celebrates very interesting customs and festivals at Whitsun. In Kötzting (Bavarian Forest) hundreds of riders on decorated horses move to a small church outside the town and all the way back. Other Whitsun Rides are held for example in Sankt Englmar (Bavarian Forest) and in Ochsenfurt (Franconia)  where beside the ride the "Bratwurstfest" (franconian speciality). And, of course, there are also some beerfestivals around Whitsun, for example the "Erlanger Bergkirchweih" (Mountain Church Consecration Fair).
     
  • Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi)
    Many Processions take place in Bavaria. One of the most interesting ones is the only lake procession near Murnau at Lake Staffelsee where hundreds of people meet with their small boats for a mass celebrated by the local priest.
     
  • Sonnwendfeiern (Midsummer/Solstice Festivals)
    The night before summer officially starts (June 21st of each year), the sun reaches its zenith. In heathen times summer has been welcomed by many fires on hills and mountains. Nowadays these old customs are more and more re-established. So you can enjoy some wonderful Midsummer Festivals in the Bavarian and Allgaeu mountains with the surrounding peaks illuminated by small fires. In Franconia and East Bavaria you can find these customs as well.
     
  • Landshuter Hochzeit  (Landshut wedding)
    The former capital of Bavaria makes history come alive: Every four years far more than 2000 citizens revive with enthusiasm the whole splendour of the late Middle Ages wearing costumes tailored true to the original. Celebrations take place on four weekends during three weeks: The wedding of the Polish King´s daughter Hedwig to the Duke of Wittelsbach George of Bavaria-Landshut.
    The next Landshut wedding will take place in 2017.
     
  • Frundsbergfest (Frundsberg Festival) Mindelheim
    The Frundsberg Festival - every three years the people of Mindelheim commemorate a great family of knights from Schwaz in Tyrol, who took over the town and dominion of Mindelheim in 1467 and determined the destinies of this region in the very heart of Swabia for more than 100 years.

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July/August

  • Ritterspiele in Kaltenberg (Kaltenberg Knights Tournament)
    The world's largest Knights Tournament is held in Kaltenberg, not far from Munich, on three weekends in July. 1,200 participants contribute to an incomparable atmosphere at the mediaeval market: juggling and music, the life of knights and historical handicrafts, minstrelsy and magic, food and drink, everything your heart could desire. And in the arena, the world-famous “Cascadeurs Associés” hold a jousting tournament, as breath-taking as any in the 14th century could have been.
     
  • Tänzelfest Kaufbeuren
    In the town of Kaufbeuren our children have been celebrating a very special festival known as The Tänzelfest for many years. Every summer, shortly before the beginning of the holidays, Kaufbeuren is entirely taken over by these festivities. Click here for further information about the  Tänzelfest in Kaufbeuren - oldest historical Children's Festival in Bavaria
     
  • Annafest in Forchheim
    The enormously popular St Anna Festival is a 10-day-beer party taking over an ‘enchanted’ forest near Forchheim in North Bavaria/Franconia.
    Tourist-Information, Hauptstr. 24, 91301 Forchheim, Tel. +49 (0)9191 / 714-337 oder -338, Fax: +49 (0)9191 / 714-206, E-Mail: tourist@forchheim.de
     
  • Further Drachenstich (Slaying the Dragon in Furth)
    Every August Furth im Wald, situated halfway between Nuremberg and Prague on the border of the Czech Republic, prepares for the years most important celebration, the historic "Drachenstich". An historic parade made up of 1,500 participants in costumes, over 200 horses, bands and floats depicting 1000 years of the area´s history winds its way through town. At the centre of the festivities is the historic play "Drachenstich" (= slaying of the dragon), the oldest folk play in Germany.
     
  • Gäubodenvolksfest - Bavarias second largest Folk and Beer Festival
    and East Bavarian Exhibition

    Without doubt, the “Gäubodenvolksfest “ is one of Bavaria´s oldest and most popular festivals. By successfully balancing tradition and progress, it combines a wholesome mixture of genuine Bavarian life-style and vitality.
     
  • Kinderzeche Dinkelsbühl - One of the oldest historic Festivals in Germany (since 1897)
    During 30 Years War (1618 - 1648) broad parts of germany have been destroyed, while the mediaeval city of Dinkelsbühl has been left in good condition. This is because of the children of Dinkelsbühl who plead for favour with the swedish colonel. For more than 100 years Dinkelsbühl is celebrating its rescue with a festival where the whole story is performed again. And the city still shows its grateful appreciation for their help by giving coloured bags with sweets to all children taking part in the procession. Find here more information about the Kinderzeche in Dinkelsbühl
     

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September/October

  • Viehscheid or Almabtrieb
    (an autumn cattle-drive from the high alpine pastures)

    In early september the cows are driven back downhill. The lead cows (only one per herd) are adorned with ornamental head-dresses and huge clanking bells. By doing so, people celebrate their safe return in towns and villages.
     
  • Weinfeste (wine festivals) in Franconia
    No other wine region in germany possesses such a density of mediaeval towns and villages and they have more than a hundred wine festivals between May and November. A Wine Queen is elected - not just for her beauty, but for her knowledge about the local wine.
     
  • Oktoberfest in Munich
    More than 6.2 million visitors, 6.7 million litres of beer served in a "Maßkrug" (1 kilolitre stein) make the Oktoberfest the largest beer festival in the world .
     

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November/December

  • Leonhardifahrt (St. Leonhard Horse Procession) in Bad Tölz  
    This major procession on 6th November honours St. Leonard, and features townsfolk dressed in traditional garments, as well as brass bands and flower-festooned horse carts. Most famous version of this is in Bad Tölz.
    Tourist Information Bad Tölz, Tel.: +49 (0)8041  786729, Fax: +49 (0)8041  786756, E-Mail: info@bad-toelz.de, www.bad-toelz.de
     
  • St. Martin’s day traditions (Sankt Martinstag) in Bavaria
    St. Martin’s day on 11th November is the day we remember Martin of Tours. In Bavaria children and families the state over eagerly await the coming of evening for it is then that, dressed in their warmest clothes and with glowing St. Martin’s lanterns held high, they process through their towns and villages singing traditional St. Martin’s songs before returning home to a sumptuous dinner of St. Martin’s goose.  
     
  • Christkindlmärkte (Christmas markets)
    Traditional german christmas markets are becoming more and more famous amoung tourists. Just think about the world famous Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt, the mulled wine (Glühwein), the gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and all the other typical stuff. Most christmas markets in Bavaria start in the last week of November and last until two or three days before Christmas Eve.
     
  • "Sylvester" and New Years Eve
    As the last vestiges of Christmas goose are finished up it’s time to get ready to welcome in the New Year. In Bavaria, however you choose to celebrate you will find something just tailor-made for you. “Sylvester” - the German term for New Year’s Eve that comes from the fact that the 31st December is St. Sylvester’s day – is celebrated with festivities of all sizes from large gala dinners and balls to local festivities in cities, towns and villages across the state. Wherever you choose to see in the New Year sparkling wine and fireworks are bound to feature prominently. 

St Leonhard Procession in Kreuth image.enlarge
St Leonhard Procession in Kreuth © Tegernseer Tal Tourismus

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