About our Customs--"Sitte"

Christkindlmarkt (Christ-child market)/Striezelmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt

 A week before the first Sunday of Advent, you will find Christmas markets popping up all over German-speaking countries in Europe, the lowlands, and parts of France, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland.

The first Christmas market was initiated by Friedrich II, Elector of Saxony, in Dresden in 1434. Known today as the Striezelmarkt, it derived its name from Stroczen, or now known as stollen, the traditional butter and liquored fruit laden Christmas cake (yum). Today there are over 250 outside stalls in the Striezelmarkt and it is also known for its famous wood Christmas ornaments and Weihnachtspyramiden (candle driven carousels with figures and scenes) from the Ore Mountains bordering Germany and the Czech Republic.

The most famous market is found in the Bavarian city of Nuernberg. The Christkindlesmarkt draws over 2,000,000 visitors to the "Christmas City" every year. Founded in the 1620s as a practice of Kindleinbescherren (bestowing small gifts on children),  record of a 1628 visit to the Christkindlesmarkt remains in tact. A coniferous box inscribed "Regina Susanna Harßdörfferin from the virgin Susanna Eleonora Erbsin" may have been the precursor to the famous Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) tin for which Nuernberg is world famous.

Customs we know in America that celebrate the Christmas season have their origins in Germany. German royals who married into the British Royal Family brought the first Christmas tree to England during the reign of Queen Victoria. German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree to their new neighbors in America. The tradition of Santa Claus (short for St. Nicholas) comes from the tradition of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker coming on the night of December 5th to leave candies and treats in the shoes of  all good children.  December 6th is known as Nickolaus in Germany.

While our growing market in Lovettsville is certainly not as grand as the Nuernberger Christkindlesmarkt or Dresdner Striezelmarkt, we are honoring and celebrating this venerable, ancient and family fun activity. Join us for traditional hand-made gifts and ornaments, buying holiday greenery, baked goods, food and beverages including the traditional Gluehwein (hot mulled wine) and a variety of artisan German sausages and  prepared on site dishes, live music and performances, a visit from good old St. Nick, an appearance by Krampus, and children activities including making your own German ornament for the tree, face and hair painting, and storytelling by the German language students from Harmony Middle and Woodgrove High Schools.

Gluehwein Recipe

1 Bottle Wine (Burgundy)

¼ cup Rum

1/8 cup Amaretto

7 Cloves

2 Cinnamon Sticks

2 Oranges cut into slices

½ cup Sugar

Simmer ingredients on a low flame for an hour and enjoy!


courtesy of Wikipedia


 The original "Oktoberfest" occurred in Munich, on October 12, 1810.

First hundred years

In the year 1811, an agricultural show was added to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse race persisted until 1960, the agricultural show still exists and it is held every four years on the southern part of the festival grounds. In 1816, carnival booths appeared; the main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. The founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility for festival management in 1819, and it was agreed that the Oktoberfest would become an annual event. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward, the reason being that days are longer and warmer at the end of September.

To honour the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a parade took place for the first time in 1810. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people—mostly from Bavaria—in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the centre of Munich, to the Oktoberfest. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl.

Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.

In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was finished. In 1854, 3,000 residents of Munich succumbed to an epidemic of cholera, so the festival was cancelled. Bavaria's part in the Austro-Prussian War meant that there was no Oktoberfest in 1866. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war was the reason for cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was once more cancelled due to a cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated over 400 booths and tents. In 1881, booths selling bratwursts opened. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892.

At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. They wanted more room for guests and musicians. The booths became beer halls.

In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration

In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests.

War years

From 1914 to 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.

In 1933, the Bavarian white and blue flag was replaced with the swastika flag. From 1939 to 1945, due to World War II, no Oktoberfest took place. From 1946 to 1948, after the war, Munich celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer—2% stronger in alcohol than normal beer—was not permitted; guests had to drink normal beer.

Since its beginnings the Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times due to war, disease and other emergencies.

Modern festival

Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry "O' zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian language) opens the Oktoberfest. The Mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.

Horse races ended in 1960.

By 1960, the Oktoberfest had turned into an enormous world-famous festival. Since then, foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl.

Traditional visitors wear during the Oktoberfest Bavarian hats (Tirolerhüte), which contain a tuft of goat hair. In Germany, goat hair is highly valued and prized, making it one of the most expensive objects for sale. The more tufts of goat hair on your hat, the wealthier you are considered to be. Technology helping, this tradition ended with the appearance of cheap goat hair imitations on the market.

There are many problems every year with young people who overestimate their ability to handle large amounts of alcohol. Many forget that Oktoberfest beer has 5.8 to 6.3% alcohol and high sugar content (compared to an average of 5.2% of alcohol and low sugar content in German beer), and they pass out due to drunkenness. These drunk patrons are often called "Bierleichen" (German for "beer corpses").

For them as well as for the general medical treatment of visitors the Bavarian branch of German Red Cross operates an aid facility and provides emergency medical care on the festival grounds, staffed with around 100 volunteer medics and doctors per day. They serve together with special detachments of Munich police, fire department and other municipal authorities in the service center at the Behördenhof (authorities' court), a large building specially built for the Oktoberfest at the east side of the Theresienwiese, just behind the tents. There is also a place for lost & found children, a lost property office, a security point for women and other public services.

To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the "quiet Oktoberfest" was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 pm, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager and pop music be played, which had led to more violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these rules, the organizers of the Oktoberfest were able to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.

Since 2005 the last traveling Enterprise ride of Germany, called Mondlift, is back on the Oktoberfest.

Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law intended to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces that are open to the public, even at the Oktoberfest. Because of problems enforcing the anti-smoking law in the big tents there was an exception for the Oktoberfest 2008, although the sale of tobacco was not allowed. After heavy losses in the 2008 local elections with the smoke ban being a big issue in debates, the state's ruling party meanwhile implemented special exemptions to beer tents and small pubs. The change in regulation is aimed in particular at large tents at the Oktoberfest:] So, smoking in the tents is still legal, but the tents usually have non-smoking areas. The sale of tobacco in the tents is now legal, but it's abandoned by agreement. However, in early 2010 a referendum held in Bavaria as a result of a popular initiative re-instituted the original, strict, smoking ban of 2008; thus, no beer will be sold to people caught smoking in the tents. The blanket smoking ban will not take effect until 2011, but all tents will institute the smoking ban this year as to do the "dry run" to identify any unforeseeable issues. The common issue when the smoking ban is in effect is the nauseating stench of stale beer spilled on the floor, which the smoking masked.

2010 marks the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, there was a horse race in historical costumes on opening day. A so-called "Historische Wiesn" (historical Oktoberfest) took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt a century ago.

St. Martinstag und Laternenumzug

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne und meine Laterne mit mir,

Dort oben leuchten die Sterne, hier unten da leuchten wir....

Geese?  An adolescent boy on horseback dressed as a noble-born 4th century Hungarian Roman legion and a younger boy dressed as a medieval beggar?  Saffron cookies shaped like gingerbread men with clay pipes? Children with homemade lanterns singing songs about stars and their lanterns?  Sounds like the perfect ingredients for St. Martin's Day on or around the 11th of November each year!

The holiday commemorates and celebrates the charitable acts of St. Martin of Tours. With handmade lanterns, children will follow a boy traditionally dressed as the 4th century Roman soldier on horseback who comes across a shabbily clad beggar in the winter countryside near Amiens, France. The legend associated with Martin tells of him cutting his cape in two with his sword without even being asked by the beggar and he covers him to keep him from freezing to death. The story continues with Martin returning to the Roman garrison that night and dreaming that a voice comes to him saying “As you have clothed the beggar, you have clothed me”. Martin realizes that the beggar was an apparition of Jesus. Soon thereafter, Martin embraces the fledgling Christian faith and is eventually made a beloved bishop and after his death he is canonized. To this day, the act of charity is retold by children in Austria,Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France, and accompanied by children singing songs and carrying handmade paper lanterns. In Belgium children receive gifts from St. Martin on November 11th similar to the American Santa Claus tradition on December 25th.

The tradition associated with eating goose on St. Martin's Day comes from the fact that the villagers, looking for their beloved priest Martin who was to be made bishop, could not find hide nor hair of him. Due to his humility and not wanting to be in the spotlight, he was hiding in a barn. The geese started making such a noise so as to give his hiding place away and that he could be taken to be made bishop. The tradition of giving children Weckmaenner , Dambedei, Hefekerle or Stutenkerle (saffron  gingerbread shaped cookies whose name depends on what area of Germany, Switzerland or Luxemburg you hail from) comes from “image bread;” that is a pastry formed into a figure made out of wheat flour or dough. It is supposed to represent a bishop and in this case St. Martin! The clay pipe one usually sees today is an error: If you turn it around so the end of the pipe faces the top, you can see even today that instead of the clay pipe, a bishop's crozier was originally attached to the pastry.

Maifest (Mayday)

You have survived the witches and the dead wreaking havoc on April 30th--Walpurgisnacht (the eve of St. Walburga) which in the Celtic and Teutonic tradition is exactly six months from All Hallow's Eve (Halloween). They know that the next day is full of frivolity and celebration as Spring has finally sprung.

Throughout rural regions of Germany, the men in a town will find the most strait-trunked tree, cut it down, fell the bark, leave the highest branches and carry it through the streets of town. It will be decorated around the "crown" of the tree with bright ribbons and plaques delineating the town's social clubs. Traditionally a shooting club takes precedence as they will ceremonially shoot blanks to announce the arrival of spring and ward off the witches from the night before.

Now, it is time to erect the monstrosity and the best thing to give you some strength is a cup of Waldmeisterbowle (Woodruff Punch) and a slice of Zwiebelkuchen (Onion-bacon cake). The sooner you get the maypole up, the sooner the dancing and revelry can start.

Both young and old, dressed in folk costume, dance around the maypole, play games and enjoy the Waldmeisterbowle. Young men attempt to climb the maypole and it is customary to "steal" the neighboring town's maypole (Waterford and Hillsboro better not even consider starting this tradition!). At the end of the celebration, the mayday king and queen are crowned and paraded about town.


Waldmeisterbowle Recipe

2 handfulls of flowering woodruff (it is in season only at this time of year)

1 cup sugar

juice of one orange and one lemon

3 bottles of light dry white wine

1 small bottle of champagne