Along the northern sections of the Danube River lies one of most known and widely discussed areas of the present day German culture. It is an area of great people who continue to prosper and grow with each passing day, but at the same time make it a priority to never forget the great traditions of their past. This area is Germany’s southeastern federal state of Bavaria.
Over the years Bavaria has become Germany’s number one travel and holiday destination through its offering of unique attractions and scenery. Bavaria is home to such historic sites as the Neuschwanstein Castle and the Munich Hall of Fame with its statue Bavaria. It also offers some of the world’s largest and most renowned festivals andevents, such as the Oktoberfest in Munich and the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg.
The people of Bavaria carry on many great traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. One of the most widely known traditions is that of the Maypole. Every year during the month of May many towns in Bavaria hold a fierce competition to see which town can erect the tallest and most magnificent Maypole. Some towns erect the Maypole with its original tree bark, while other towns strip the bark and paint the pole blue and white (the colors of Bavaria). The poles are then decorated with colorful ribbons, flowers, carved figures, an evergreen tree and lastly adorned with a wreath. Following the completion of the Maypole, an annual May Fest is often held to celebrate. At the May Fest it is a long time custom to perform a ribbon dance around the Maypole, often referred to as the “Maibaum Tanz.” This set of Maypole traditions is seen as the joyful startup note to the season of spring.
The primary dancing traditions of Bavaria consists of Schuhplatteln, which literally means, “the slapping of shoe soles.” The traditional Schuhplatteln style of dancing began in the Alpine mountain regions of Bavaria during the winter months of the 17th century. It began as a way for the men to entertain themselves and keep warm during the harshest days of winter. However, this way of keeping warm quickly evolved into a competition among the men to see who could slap the hardest, jump the highest, and stomp the loudest. As time went by, music was added and dances were created to match the slaps and stomps with the beats of the music. During the 19th century women were welcomed into the dances and the current day form of Schuhplatteln was born.
The costumes worn during Schuhplatteln are very distinctive to the region of Bavaria. Each of the participating towns in Bavaria has their own various stitched patterns of lederhosen (leather trousers) for the men and various designs of dirndl for the women. On the men you will often see the traditional Wadenstrümpfe (calf socks). The women wear a beautiful combination of colors on the dirndl, apron, and shawl.
The rich customs of Bavaria are still flourishing to this day. The Danube Cultural Society will continue to promote these same rich customs throughout southeastern Wisconsin and the rest of the United States for many more years to come.
Please click here to hear the German National Anthem.