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Another harvest season has come and gone. The hops fields have been cleared, the rows of corn have been harvested, and the fields have begun to be plowed, prepping them for the approach of winter.

When you think about Thanksgiving, you traditionally think of it only as an American holiday celebrated to give thanks for another good harvest year. We carry on this tradition to remember the Pilgrims who gave thanks to the Native Americans for their help through a bitter, harsh winter. However, Thanksgiving isn’t just unique to America. Many countries around the world come together at the end of another successful harvest season to give their thanks in some form or another.

In the small Bavarian farm village of Bad Gögging, located between Regensburg and Ingolstadt, a festival known as “Erntedankfest” has taken place every year since 2006. The festival includes open air folks music with locals dancing to the tunes. Everyone wears their best, most traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl. Families and friends gather to celebrate, peruse the stalls adorned with hops selling traditional Bavarian goods. This one day festival is typically held on the last Sunday of every September.

25. September 2016

24. September 2017

30. September 2018

In Germany, Erntedankfest is a traditional Christian celebration where believers come together to thank God. Usually this day of Thanksgiving is normally at the end of September or the first Sunday in October.

So, if you’re looking for a traditional experience, avoid of any tourists (besides myself) and want to experience true Bavarian culture, then head to the smallest village you can find. It is here you will truly find a revival of Bavarian culture celebrated not for tourists, but for themselves.

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While you might think this festival should be hundreds of years old like other festivals in Germany, you would be surprised to learn that 2016 celebrated the 10th anniversary of the festival. Like many villages around Germany and predominately in Bavaria, Bad Gögging revitalized their Bavarian historical traditions by creating this festival in 2006. It’s a part of the trend that hit Germany in the early 2000s to bring back cultural aspects. You could say that they were finding their identity again after loosing it during WWII and during the separation between East and West Germany. Many aspects of Bavarian culture came back in full swing, with Lederhosen and Dirndl becoming fashionable again, festivals and the display of state pride.

Starting at 1pm, a small parade marches down the main street of Bad Gögging, through the town and into the town square, with the towns people following behind ready to celebrate. Decorating the background of the dance floor is a colorful display of produce from the end of another successful harvest, topped with a crown made from either hops or hay.

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Immediately, there is music and dancing, hollaring and beer flowing. People are meandering from one decorated stall to the next.

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Keeping in mind that this is a small Bavarian village, there aren’t as many stalls as you might find at a Christmas market in a larger town, but there is still plenty to peruse. You can find anything from customs made jewelry to show off your Lederhosen and Dirndl, fresh lavender, Schnapps, Liquor, hand made baskets, flowers and more!

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You can even find a traditional game of Kegel, which is sort of similar to bowling. A person throws a Kegel ball down a wooden lane to knock over as many pins as possible. Instead of 10-pins there are only 9.

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Nothing gets me more excited about living in Bavaria than a display of good looking men, in Lederhosen dancing. And not just dancing, but putting on a show making music with whips! This traditional show is called Goaßlschnoizer (yes, try saying that 10 times fast as I had to!)

The name Goaßlschnoizer is from the Bavarian/Austrian dialect and is from the quick snapping sound the whip makes. It translates to “Whipcracking” which is used during livestock driving and is also a form of art and traditional sport.

A group of men, around 7-8 spread out on the dance floor, 3 of whom stand on top of a table with a group of onlookers below them. Together, with the accordion leading the way, they snap their whips to and fro to create music. The crack a whip makes is created when a section of the whip moves faster than the speed of sound creating a small boom.

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Here is my video of a dance from 2014:

Here is my video of a traditional dance from 2014:

The hats that the Bavarian men wear with the hair from a chamois are called Gamsbart. They are incredibly expensive because they are handmade.

Erntedankfest is similar to the American Thanksgiving only in the respect that they give thanks to God for the good harvest season, but there is traditionally no big dinner celebration like Americans are accustomed to having, although that doesn’t mean that family and friends don’t gather to eat some delicious food afterwards.

Other Traditional Festivals:

Almabtrieb at Königssee

Fasching in Neustadt an der Donau

Regensburg’s Beer Festival: Dult

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Replies to A Bavarian “Thanksgiving” – Erntedankfest Bad Gögging

  1. Fascinating to see the long traditions that are still celebrated (even after a bit of a gap) from the cities down your the villages. I know a lot of places in the UK have harvest festivals around now. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  2. What a fun festival!! I love learning about the traditions in different places! I really love that this festival isn’t “touristy” and that the people really celebrate it for themselves. Makes it so much more meaningful and authentic! …And that bowling looks like a blast!! 😀

  3. SO cool!!! I want to visit Germany in the fall so badly! I am so proud of my German heritage and really want to get to know the culture more! and of course go to Oktoberfest. (I LOVE beer!!) haha 🙂

  4. We don’t celebrate Erntedankfest in my home town in Germany anymore so it’s so interesting to read about how they do it in Bavaria. Great that they’re keeping the tradition alive!

  5. This was really cool to read about – I had no idea! As a German learner, I sometimes call it “Danksgeben” as a joke, realizing this is of course, totally nonsense 🙂

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