The real Schäffler are back in 2026 – the Barrel-Makers Dance
As throngs of tourists crowd into Marienplatz daily at 11.00 am, 12.00 am and from March till October also at 5.00 pm, the Schäfflertänzer (Cooper or barrel-makers dancers) in their colourful red jackets, black pants and white stockings twirl around their garlands as part of the Glockenspiel on the tower of the New Town Hall. Unlike these painted figures which perform year in and year out, Munich’s real life Schäfflertänzer can only be seen every seven years between 6th January and Shrove Tuesday.
2026: 6th January till 17th February
The tradition of the Schäfflertanz dates back to the year 1517 when Munich was suffering the plague. Almost half of the city’s 20,000 inhabitants had succumbed to the dreaded disease.
When the Plague abated, the Schäffler (coopers, or barrel-makers) journeymen, took it upon themselves to renew the sense of joie de vivre among the people of Munich by dancing through the streets with hoops wrapped in greens, accompanied by lively music. As Munich’s residents heard the commotion, shutters opened, faces appeared ant they slowly but surely decided it was once again safe to go out into the streets. In addition to the rousing dance, the Schäffler clowned with the crowds, bringing smiles to those who had suffered so much grief.
The Schäfflertanz evolved into its present-day form about 130 years ago. Twenty-five participants, including twenty dancers, two Reifenschwinger (hoop twirlers), two Kasperln (clowns) and one Fähnrich (flag-bearer) perform the dance throughout the city during the Fasching season.
The dancers perform seven different figures, many of them very intricate. In their gay costumes and buckle shoes, they are a colourful spectacle. The shoes, by the way, are specially made for the dancers and generally have to be resoled at least once during the season.
The clowns, in addition to mingling among the crowds and creating a festive mood, are also responsible for the props which include the hoops of fir greens, a staff topped by a golden ball, a hammer, and of course, a barrel.
The Reifenschwinger has perhaps the most difficult job. He holds a wooden hoop with an indentation on the inside rim for a small glass filled with wine. Standing on the keg in the middle of the circle of the dancers, he twirls his hoop over his head and between his legs, being careful, of course, not to spill one drop of wine from the glass. At the end of his performance, he drinks the wine and tosses the glass over his shoulder where one of the
clowns catches in his cap.
More information and dates: http://www.schaefflertanz.com (German only)