• Easter cavalcade in Bautzen, Upper Lusatia
    Easter cavalcade in Bautzen, Upper Lusatia ©Marketing-Gesellschaft Oberlausitz-Niederschlesien mbH (Jörg Stephan)
  • Oberammergau
    Oberammergau ©Panthermedia (Ebehard S.)
  • All Saints' Church in Soest
    All Saints' Church in Soest ©Tourist-Information Soest
  • Bad Kötzting Whitsun Ride
    Bad Kötzting Whitsun Ride ©Kurverwaltung Bad Kötzting
  • Ludwigsburg/Neckar: Christmas market
    Ludwigsburg/Neckar: Christmas market ©Ludwigsburg/Neckar Stadtmarketing u. Touristik GmbH
  • Cattle drive (harvest festival) in Oberstaufen
    Cattle drive (harvest festival) in Oberstaufen
  • Walpurgis Night in the Harz mountains
    Walpurgis Night in the Harz mountains ©Stadt Thale (Behrens)
  • Leonhardi Ride in Bad Tölz
    Leonhardi Ride in Bad Tölz ©Tourist-Information Bad Tölz

Traditions and customs create a sense of community

Throughout the world, cultures preserve old traditions and customs which represent their way of life and their religious inclinations. In Germany too, there are many religious festivals which combine faith, tradition, culture and customs.
Ludwigsburg/Neckar: Christmas market
Christmas – a secular celebration of the birth of Jesus and the most important Christian holiday

Christmas, which is heralded by the season of Advent, is one of the three main festivals in the Christian calendar along with Easter and Whitsun. It is associated with a whole variety of customs, although Nativity scenes and festively decorated Christmas trees are considered to be secular symbols. The romantic Christmas markets held in many towns, cities and villages across Germany traditionally open their doors at the start of the Advent season. more »

Walpurgis Night in the Harz mountains
Walpurgis Night – the most fiery of nights throughout the Harz region

A mixture of customs, shamanism, parties and adoration of saints, Walpurgis Night takes place on the night of 30 April every year and combines Celtic and Germanic traditions with Catholic customs. While witches meet for a huge party on Mount Brocken in the Harz National Park , Catholics celebrate the feast day of the abbess St. Walburga, who lends her name to this spooky occasion.

Bad Kötzting Whitsun Ride
Proud riders and magnificent steeds – one of the largest mounted processions in Europe: Bad Kötzting

The Bad Kötzting Whitsun Ride is one of Europe's largest mounted pilgrimages for men in Europe and originates in a pledge made in 1412. Led by the cross-bearer, almost 1,000 horsemen dressed in traditional costume ride through the Zellertal Valley on Whit Monday, praying as they go. Forming part of a complex set of customs, the Eucharistic procession includes preaching from the Gospel and ends with the 'Whitsun wedding'.

Easter cavalcade in Bautzen, Upper Lusatia
Sorbian custom dating back to 1541: Upper Lusatia

The Easter cavalcade is an ancient religious ritual in the form of a procession. Before the procession, the Easter horse riders attend the Easter Sunday service. They then ride around the outside of their local church and receive a blessing before setting out on horseback to the sound of choral singing to deliver the joyous news of Christ's resurrection. Afterwards, a traditional Easter market takes place in Bautzen.

The world's most famous passion play – the result of a vow made during the plague year of 1633: Oberammergau

A tradition with global fame: this portrayal of Jesus Christ's Passion, death and resurrection has been performed by an extensive cast of lay actors every ten years for almost four centuries. The huge-scale production at the Passion Play Theatre takes six hours and re-enacts the final five days in the life of Jesus. The Passion Plays are one of the most significant religious events in Germany.

Leonhardi Ride in Bad Tölz
Keeping up a magnificent tradition: the Leonhardi Ride in Bad Tölz

The Leonhardi Ride is a religious tradition that can be traced back as far as the 17th century. This ceremonial horseback pilgrimage to the Leonhardi Chapel takes place in early November each year in Bad Tölz and is held in honour of the patron saint of horses and cattle, St. Leonhard of Limoges (6th century). It is the largest of its kind in Bavaria , with numerous riders on horseback, a large crowd of spectators and over 80 decorated carts drawn by teams of four horses.

Cologne Carnival
Carnival – the fifth season of the year

The custom of carnival, now part of the Christian calendar, has its roots in Pagan traditions. It is celebrated in anticipation of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter. Nowadays, the colourful spectacle begins on 11 November and reaches its peak on the Monday before Lent, when extravagant processions are held. The frivolity ends on Ash Wednesday at the start of the fasting period.

Fire-breathing dragon and knight with sword
Germany's oldest folk pageant – medieval mysticism aplenty: Furth im Wald

The dragon-slaying pageant, dating back to 1590, has its origins in the Corpus Christi procession and incorporates the legend of St. George. Every August, Furth plays host to a festival in which the townsfolk transform themselves into 15th-century warriors, knights and peasants. This elaborate production, full of drama and mysticism with epic and thrilling scenes from the Middle Ages, traditionally depicts the slaying of the dragon.

Biikebrennen bonfires, Sylt
Biikebrennen – spectacular bonfires on the North Frisian coast

Sounds of the sea, roaring fires, punch and curly kale: the traditional Biikebrennen bonfires are lit at dusk on 21 February – St. Peter's Day and a month before the equinox – on the mainland, the islands and the Hallig islets of North Friesland. The bonfires are considered to be the oldest North Frisian tradition and have evolved from a Pagan ritual into a major local festival.

Palm Sunday in Bad Saulgau
A pre-Easter Christian tradition: Bad Saulgau

Bad Saulgau celebrates Palm Sunday – the last Sunday of Lent and the start of Holy Week – with what is probably the largest palm procession in Upper Swabia, a tradition stretching as far back as the late Middle Ages. The procession of decorated palms, which are blessed beforehand by the church, is also a celebration in anticipation of Easter and recalls the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Cattle drive (harvest festival) in Oberstaufen
Festively adorned cattle and harvest crowns – a centuries-old harvest thanksgiving spectacle in the Allgäu Alps

In the Allgäu, late September is the time for the cattle drive, which is celebrated with church festivals and services of thanksgiving and is accompanied by a number of customs. As part of this age-old tradition, the festively adorned cattle are herded from the mountain pastures back down to the valley to the sound of chiming bells. The spectacle is celebrated with convivial public festivals featuring regional specialities, music and dancing.

All Saints' Church in Soest
All Saints' Day Annual Fair in Soest – a really special event in a historical setting

St. Peter's, the oldest church in Soest, was consecrated on All Saints' Day over 700 years ago. It was decided to celebrate the occasion by holding a huge public festival around the church lasting several days. Since then, the people of Soest have kept up this wonderful tradition each year on the first Wednesday after All Saints' Day in the town's old quarter. It is the largest such fair in Europe to be held in the old quarter of a town.

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