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The regions, towns and places. Their highlights, stories, traditions, customs and festivals

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Glossary of terms:

Fest:   (engl.: Festival )

The overall term for most celebrations and festivals, like Oktoberfest, Maifest, Bierfest, Weihnachtsfest (Christmas celebration).

Markt: (market place)

Refers to the market place as a whole or describes a specific event as in Jahrmarkt (a market held once a year) or the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, a year round farmers market close to the center of town.

Bier: (beer)

Bavarian brewers proudly conform to the century old law, the “Bayrische Reinheitsgebot” which states, that you are only allowed to use Hops, Malt and Water. The only add on made to this law was that yeast is also allowed in the brewing process, as yeast was not discovered until a bit later and it was not known at that time, that natural occurring yeast is necessary for the brewing process.


A festival centered on beer. The most famous one is the Oktoberfest in Munich, with many others like the Starkbierfests and Bockbierfests held to celebrate the custom of some breweries to make a stronger beer once a year.

Bockbier or Starkbier: (stark = strong)

Beer with more than double the alcohol level of regular beer. Not originated but made famous by the Paulaner monks, who were only allowed to take liquid nourishments during lent. Drinking beer was accepted and one of the mainstays for the monks during that time.

For more information see:


Is served in beer gardens and local restaurants and usually consists of a personal platter of luncheon meats and sausages, with some cheese and yes, as the name says, “Brot” bread.

Brunnenfest: (water fountain festival)

Celebrated in towns to honor the life giving power of the water these fountains supply. Usually the fountains are decorated and an official procession visits each fountain, reciting poems or singing songs.

Christkindlmarkt or  Weihnachtsmarkt:

Christmas market is usually an outdoor market held during Advent or the 4 weeks before Christmas. The most famous is in Nuremberg with over a million yearly visitors.  

Click here for an interactive map of markets published by the German Tourist Board.

Fasching: Fastnacht, Karnival.

German version of Mardi Gras. Karnival is a fun time which ends at the start of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent.

See for more information

Feier:   (celebration, party  or ceremony)

i.e. Geburtstagfeier = Birthday celebration


Gau is a county and could be compared to a county fair, with less agricultural products but more celebration.


Let’s start again with Gau equal to a county, Tracht or plural Trachten is the costume worn by the locals, they differ from village to village and we all know by now what a Fest is. So a Gautrachtenfest is a festival where all the surrounding villages come together dressed in their traditional Sunday Best. It is a way to preserve the old ways and traditions, with music and dance exhibitions from various local groups.

Jahrmarkt:  (yearly market)

This tradition goes back to the Middle Ages when traders came to town. These were merchant caravans making their rounds from town to town, selling, buying and bartering. They brought with them merchandise from the towns next door or from far away places, like spices, salt, trinkets, cloth, jewelry and many other things which were locally not available. This was another great chance to celebrate. These caravans are gone but the market tradition continues today with local merchants and artisans exhibiting their goods.


Midsummer festival. Dedicated to the birth of John the Baptist and celebrated in many locations on the summer solstice (Sonnwendfeier) by dancing around the Johannisfeuer (a bonfire). The custom itself goes back to pagan times, when it was a ritual to head off demons and other bad things.

Kirchweih:  Kirmes, Kerwe

It is originally the day on which the towns church was founded and consecrated. Nowadays these exact dates are mostly forgotten, but the festival occurs in almost every town or village, some of which are too small to even have their own church. It is another good excuse to have a “Fest”.

Maibaum: (May tree)

A decorated tree trunk, with the top of the tree in tact and a wreath encircling it below,erected in the center of town in time for the Maifest.

The German tradition is not ancient, but has similarities in many cultures, like the obelisk of the Egyptians and totem pole of the American Indians. It’s origin is believed to go back to the Babylonians.


In many towns and villages it is the biggest festival of the year, celebrating the start of the warm season.

Stadtfest:  (city festival)

Usually held on the anniversary of the day when a village received the charter and the right to be called a city.

Schuetzenfest: (Shooter’s fest)

The celebration of the local target shooters society or club when they announce their annual king. It is the winner of the target shooting contest within the club and usually only open to club members. But for the celebration of the day everyone is welcome.

Stammtisch: (Table reserved for regular guests)

Any table in a restaurant or bar marked or labeledSTAMMTISCH is exclusively for the use of the regular patrons of the establishment and requires an invitation by one of them to join and sit there. If you receive this “honor” - you belong!

Sylvester:  (New Year’s Eve)

Celebrated all over the world, with some special traditions in some towns or villages

Volksfest: (the people’s festival)

Carnival like atmosphere with rides plus a beer tent with oompah music. The most famous world wide is the Oktoberfest in Munich.

Wallfahrt:  (pilgrimage)

A pilgrimage to a sacred place, often a specific location or church, the most famous in Christianity would be to the Holy Land, Lourdes, France or also time specific events such as the Easter service at the St. Peter’s Square, Vatican, Rome. Smaller pilgrimages are held all over Germany to places like the Wieskirche (church in the meadow) and many others.


A pagan celebration when witches come to the Harz mountains.

Please see the complete wikipedia page about it:

Weinfest: (wine festival)

These festivals honor the excellent German wines and are celebrated in the wine regions all over Germany.

Wiesenfest: (festival on the meadow)

These are Volksfests, usually in late spring or early summer, centering around the local children, with parades and games, with carnival rides and also beer tents for “us, older kids”


A mythical creature which is very hard to find, in the same category as the Jackalope and the Griffin.