The biggest parties, festivals and carnivals in Germany

The German territory is tremendously wide within Europe and the regions within the same country are very different from each other, many celebrate and commemorate their own traditions and customs that come from the Middle Ages or even from Roman times, many festivities have a Catholic or religious origin and others on the contrary go back to pagan traditions or harvests of the time. We must also consider the tradition of folk festivals and go back to German history, which until three centuries ago was a territory in which a series of kingdoms, principalities (electors and palatinates), dukedoms, marquisates, margraviates, among others, coexisted in parallel. others, as we mentioned earlier in the post “20 curious facts about Germany (part two”).

With regard to the fact that these days, when this post is published, the “German Reunification Day” (October 3) is celebrated, it seems to us a good time to comment on the best traditions throughout the country. That is why in this post we want to introduce you to some of the best-known festivals in Germany, trying to show the most famous and visited ones, but covering the largest area of ​​the country and throughout the year, quite a challenge! that we are willing to share with you for your next visit to the different German cities (where we also offer you our tours). Here are some for you.

 

1. Oktoberfest

Baviera o Múnich, October every year.

This traditional festival hardly needs an introduction (let alone an invitation!), as it is one of the most recognized German dates worldwide. It is actually a regional folk festival that is celebrated mainly in the Bavarian area and from there it has been exported throughout the country and many places in the world.

This folk festival was born at the time of the Kingdom of Bavaria, on the occasion of the wedding of the Crown Prince at that time -future King- of Bavaria Ludwig I with the Princess of Saxony-Hildburghausen in the year 1810, to celebrate this link is that It carries out a great horse race on October 17 of that year, which over the years is leading to a fair or kermesse that later in the post-Napoleonic war era became tremendously popular, already by the year 1880 is that we find the origin with the sale of beer, as we know it today.

This is one of the most recognized festivals in the world and in Germany it is the most visited (it summons more than 6 million people per year) and, which has only been interrupted in times of war and in the years 2020-2021 of the pandemic. Covid-19 and, if you’re wondering, of course at the time it was occupied by Nazi propaganda and then in times of the cold war by US propaganda, which is the country in charge of occupying the area.

Nowadays it is a tremendously popular festival, due to the visits that come from all over the world and due to the residents themselves who dress traditionally, which is why the festival actually lasts 17 or 18 days, from the last weeks of September to end on October 3 of each year – the day of German Reunification – so little remains of the October festival.

 

2. Cannstatter Volksfest or Cannstatter Wasen

Stuttgart, October every year.

After Oktoberfest, another traditional festival in southern Germany is the Cannstatter Wasen, which is usually held after the end of the first and also lasts 17 days (since 2007), in the city of Stuttgart, with the aim of bringing together large companies. brewers and winemakers in the area, since of the 9 large stores gathered, 7 are brewers and 2 are winemakers.

The birth of this festival is found in the year 1818 and has to do with the eruption in 1815 of the Indonesian volcano Tambora, which damaged crops worldwide due to the lack of summer caused by gases and ashes. The first successful harvests were celebrated in style in the region with this hugely popular festival at the time and to this day, as it is the second most visited festival in Germany, attracting more than 4 million people per year. Of course, like other traditional festivals, it has been suspended only in periods of the Prussian and world wars and due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Perhaps more unknown abroad, this festival is tremendously important in Germany and traditional, so an interesting invitation in case you were looking forward to Oktoberfest or you arrive late in October in Germany.

 

3. Winter festival o Weiberfastnacht.

Cologne, February every year.

This festival of pagan origin stands out for the number of regions, interpretations and origins it has, in general the best known celebration is the Cologne Winter Carnival (“Kölner Karneval”) that begins on the Thursday before “Ash Wednesday”, with “Women’s Night” (Weiberfastnacht), a street festival that opens promptly at 11:11 in the Alter Markt (Old Market) square. This carnival is called the “fifth season” and refers to the welcome given to the sunniest or brightest days in February or March, after the harsh winter. As it is a very old tradition, it is celebrated every day with different objectives, which show the past of the region, welcome successful harvests and even mix with religious traditions of the region (such as “Ash Wednesday”).

Of course it is one of the most prominent and visited landmarks in Germany, this popular festival makes the streets of Cologne completely transform in colors, costumes and allegorical cars that the citizens prepare well in advance and that brings together about 2 million of people.

*A piece of information that we bring you: In Germany the origin of this word is associated with the words Karneval, Fastnacht and Fasching, which are related to the pagan origin of these festivals in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt (and in the later Mediterranean, Greeks and Syrians) and then in Rome, however, in English all these words are translated only as “Carnival”.

 

4. Christmas markets or  Oder Weihnachtsmarkt.

Núremberg, December every year.

The tradition of this market dates back to the Middle Ages, as the traditional day for the supply of meat and other species that during the harsh winter is difficult to obtain and, we find it in the current city of Vienna, which was passed from region to region. reaching the area of ​​Bavaria and from there exported throughout Germany. It begins on the Friday before the “First Sunday of Advent” and runs until December 24, although today for tourism purposes it even extends (in large German cities) until January 1 of the following year.

The Christmas markets in Germany are one of the most long-awaited and widespread traditions in all the cities and regions of the country, in fact it is estimated that there are between 1,500 and 3,000 (such a disparate number!) and there is no big city that is It’s worth as such that you don’t have it. With regard to this, we have already made the post “The 5 best Christmas markets in Berlin”.

However, on this occasion we want to highlight the market in the city of Nuremberg, one of the oldest in the world and one of the most traditional in Germany, which brings together artisans from the area with Christmas objects, food and concoctions specially prepared for the season. . A curiosity of this market is that it actually works with two other markets in parallel:

  • The Christmas city for children: It is a traditional kermesse-type festival with all the activities for children to enjoy this time.
  • The sister cities market: A tradition that aims to invite other cities (12) and battlement municipalities (8) to show their traditions.

Once again we invite you to this traditional market in December that brings together more than 2 million people. On the dark days of winter, the food and warmth of this place are an oasis that you must visit. Don’t worry if you can’t visit Nuremberg, since any German city will welcome you with its traditional market and will also surprise you with its regional offerings.

 

5. Christopher street day o CSD Berlín

Berlin, July every year.

Leaving aside the folk festivities that date back to time immemorial, we delve into the history of the “Gay Pride March” in the German capital, although it takes place throughout the country at different times of the summer, the best known in the last time is that of Berlin, which was born in 1979 in West Berlin in the hands of the German Federal Republic (American occupation), specifically in Savignyplatz, where a group of 450 demonstrators gathered to commemorate 10 years of the terrible riots and the police violence at the Stonewall Inn Bar on Christopher Street against the homosexual population in New York, on June 27, 1969, moments that remind us of the worst experienced by the LGBTIQA+ community (by their initials).

This event is usually held during the second half of July each year and is intended to protest and highlight different issues that affect the local community, such as the repeal of article 175 of the German penal code in 1994 (which penalized homosexual relations between men), the legalization of the civil union in 2001 and the approval of same-sex marriage in 2017, although since that year it has sought to give it a more international look by advocating social struggles in solidarity with other countries.

Despite its fame, at present its lack of political perspective and its commercialization has fostered various criticisms that have ended in the realization of other alternative events with more critical perspectives, such as the migrant community and the anti-colonial struggle or the community’s struggle. trans within their own groups; Despite this, the official event of “Gay Pride” (also known colloquially in this way) brings together more than a million people and each year it is commemorated under different slogans, so in 2022 it was: “United with love against hate , war and discrimination”, which together with techno music in the background give the street parade a vibe.

 

6. Reeperbahn festival

Hamburg, September every year.

Throughout the European summer and, of course, in Germany, a series of music festivals are held for all kinds of audiences, obviously you have to take advantage of the good weather! and, one of the most outstanding is this one that is celebrated in September of each year in the bohemian St. Pauli neighborhood in Hamburg, hence its name that alludes to the visited Reeperbahn street in the city.

The current festival that has been held since 2006 is the largest European platform for progressive pop culture, offering stages for established and emerging artists, not only in the musical field but also in the areas of literature, audiovisual and virtual reality, with more than 700 artists filling its poster in the last year 2022. The objectives of this festival are also given from a political perspective, making the slogans #sustainability, #equality, #diversity and #talent, its main focuses today.

You know, if you want to get away from the traditional regional festivals, this option is incredible, since it shows you part of the current German idiosyncrasy and the political struggle of any music festival, which is in the blood of the city of Hamburg. So very invited.

 

7. Labour’s day

Berlin, May 1st every year.

This international date has its origin in the year 1889 in Paris during the First Socialist Workers Congress of the Second International, as a day of vindication and commemoration to remember the “Martyrs of Chicago”, eight workers who had started a protest on May 1, 1886 to demand the 8-hour working day and that they were harshly repressed and subsequently prosecuted.

This political and social day, of course, is historically commemorated in Berlin, the cradle of current socialism and communism in the 20th century, but always hand in hand with the traditional pagan festival Walpurgisnacht on the night of April 30, a celebration in honor of Santa Walpurgis (patron saint of peasants and servants) who celebrates fertility and the beginning of spring.

However, the commemoration of 1987 changed the role of this day and transformed it into the great commemoration that it is today, since in those days in West Berlin in the hands of the German Federal Republic (American occupation), specifically in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, unions and worker groups clashed in the fascist march called by the German National Democratic Party (NPD) at the time, which advocated the expulsion of migrant workers and restrictions on the international population, which triggered a series of clashes between protesters and police. From this moment, the vindication of the leftist parties, anti-capitalist and anarchist groups have transformed this day into the most important political protest in Germany.

 

8. New Year’s Eve

December and January every year.

The new year party marked by January 1, as we know it today, has its origin only in the year 1691 when Pope Innocent XII moved it to this moment of the Gregorian calendar, since historically the Romans (who also populated the area of ​​southern Germany from the Rhine) celebrated this date on March 1, so the current form of celebration preserves the traditions that come mainly from the area of ​​Roman influence and have spread throughout present-day Germany and Europe.

During this night we clearly see two marked moments:

– Silvester or New Year’s Eve, where people throw out the old, and then

– The new year itself, when the new year is welcomed with a lot of noise and atmosphere.

This festival is traditionally family-oriented and is celebrated in every German home regardless of religion, with many fireworks, firecrackers and bell sounds, associated with typical customs such as metal pouring or molybdomancy (divination of the future with the shapes of molten metal). ), the lucky coin, the lucky pig or the typical four-leaf clover, symbols of luck for the coming year.

*A fact that we bring you: In the Roman tradition we can find the origin of the name of the months in allusion to their numbers, the month of March was the first, April the second, May the third, June the fourth, July (Julius Caesar ) and August (Octavio Augusto) the months of the emperors that corresponded to the fifth and sixth, then September the seventh, October the eighth, November the ninth and December the tenth.

 

9. Easter

The whole country, March and April every year.

Another traditional and familiar festival in Germany, of Christian origin, is Easter, which also symbolizes the end of winter in this geographical area.

This date is associated with Christianity’s commemoration of “Christ’s Resurrection Sunday”, exactly 46 days after “Ash Wednesday” (which, as we already told you, gives rise to Carnival in Cologne), always on the Sunday following the first moon full of spring, that is, on March 22 at the earliest and April 25 at the latest. Therefore, it is always one week after the Jewish holiday of Passover. Good Friday and Easter Monday are always holidays in Germany and are enjoyed completely outdoors, with the beauty of the forests on this date.

However, the rabbit and the lamb – traditional animals with which the Easter Festival is associated in the collective imagination – are symbols and tributes of gratitude prior to Christianity and are associated with the pagan world that represent nature and fertility. Whether as a real egg, as a chocolate egg, as a decoration in flower arrangements or as a colorfully painted breakfast egg, Easter is unthinkable in Germany without an “Easter egg”, so the trade is always ready to satisfy our needs.

 

10. St. Martin’s Day

The whole country, November every year.

This is the last of the traditional and familiar German festivals that we will highlight (although we could point to many!), also of Christian origin, it is celebrated as the traditional date for the delivery of gifts and offerings on November 11 of each year (and not December 24 or 25!).

Legend has it that Martin of Tours (316 AD in Hungary-398 AD Tour, France) was an official of the Roman emperor who, during a cold winter night, met a beggar who only wore rags and was shivering with cold, when Martin saw him , he took his sword and cut his own cloak in two. He gave one half to the man, and he put the other half on himself. Saint Martin thus became a symbol of self-sacrifice and help. Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated throughout Germany with parades and candlelight processions that light up the night on this day, mainly children in kindergartens and schools come out carrying these lights and singing traditionally. Sometimes even a horseman leads this procession as Saint Martin, representing the legend with the beggar.

Finally, to satisfy your curiosity, almost all Spanish-speaking countries associate the date of delivery of gifts with December 24 or 25 (depending on the region) with the figure of Santa Claus or Santa Claus: legend has it that Saint Nicholas of Bari had a special relationship with children when someone stabbed several children, then the saint prayed for them and obtained an almost immediate cure. But his fame as a gift giver also tells that he helped with a bag full of gold coins to a poor father of a family who did not have the necessary dowry to be able to marry off his daughters.

 

Summary:

How do Germans celebrate their holidays? What traditions and customs are there? We have gathered in this post a series of milestones and dates associated with festivals, carnivals, traditions, and Christian dates such as Christmas or Easter at different times of the year and regions so that you can visit any place in Germany and understand the way of living them. So with our tours, we invite you to get to know and enjoy this country, where we will delve much deeper into its idiosyncrasy and culture.

Our guide is:

Solange González Leiton

Curious by nature, amateur historian, trained as a Lawyer in Chile, I currently work as a Tourist Guide in Potsdam and Berlin.

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We are a team of true enthusiasts about Poland who want to share the unique beauty of this country and its great history. We have more than ten years of experience in receptive tourism and travel planning in Europe.

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