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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 and is one of the best things to do in Bavaria in autumn. 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.
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25. September 2022
This one day festival is typically held on the last Sunday of every September.
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. Being only an hour away, it’s one of the best little day trips from Munich!
So, if you’re looking for a traditional Bavarian experience, void 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.
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.
As one of the most traditional Bavarian festivals in the fall, you can best there will be A LOT of beer, especially after the harvesting of the hops and wheat fields that are scattered throughout this region, between Hallertau und Altmühltal.
Stretching 42,000 acres (17,000 hectares) hops has been growing in this region for over 1,000 years and many of the traditions stem from the green gold and has influenced the Bavarian beer culture. The heart of Bavaria lies in and around the rich landscape of Hallertau, where hills stretch out before you, with endless rows of Bavarian hops fields, that dates back to 736. Over 90% of all German hops is produced here…so, you know, your welcome world!
Immediately, there is traditional Brass music and dancing, hollering and beer flowing. People are meandering from one decorated stall to the next. Everyone is thankful for yet another wonderful harvest season, which is on full display to the harvest gods, or just to hungry people.
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. Stalls are beautifully draped in excess hops, adding to the charm of this Fall Market. 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!
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.
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.
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, and only TRUE Bavarians can get away with wearing them. Everyone else would just look ridiculous!
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.
However, this is the time of year where you can find a lot of seasonal foods in Germany with meals such as Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Ravioli and more at many restaurants around the country. Unfortunately, Germany isn’t quite on board with PUMPKIN EVERYTHING, but I think it’s coming…at snail speed!
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!
Other Traditional Festivals in Germany:
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