Oktoberfest is Overrated – German Village Festivals are Where It’s At!

Since moving to Germany, we have come to LOVE the local German village festivals that happen all around us from May to October. The communities come to life and we just so enjoy hanging out with our friends, drinking some beer, letting the kids play, and listening to some Bavarian music!

German Village Festivals are a great place to experience authentic German culture without the touristy kitsch.

Oktoberfest is Overrated

Oktoberfest is seriously overrated. It’s very expensive and SO crowded. You have to book a table at least a year in advance, or you won’t be sitting down, at least on the weekends. During weekdays, however, it is much less crowded and more manageable. Thankfully, there are many other festivals throughout Germany, both large and small. It’s the kind of event you go to once in a lifetime (unless you’re a local)

German Village Festivals You Have to Check Out!

If you’re visiting Germany, or are a new resident, and really want to experience authentic German culture, German village festivals are where it’s at. You won’t have to wait in long lines, or bake in the sun, or pay expensive fees to get in. In fact, many of them are actually free to attend! You could even bring your own food and drinks, but they do offer food and drinks for a small fee.

These local festivals play a significant role in bringing communities together to celebrate their traditions, culture, and seasonal highlights. They often showcase regional specialties, including beer and wine, and provide an excellent opportunity for visitors to experience authentic German culture. Here are some examples of local festivals you might encounter in smaller villages and towns during the warmer months, from May to October.

German Village Festivals offer a more authentic view of German culture than festivals like Oktoberfest. Here is a Maibaum festival.
Here are Kevin and I enjoyed our Maß Bier at our village’s Maibaum fest. It felt like a step back in time! The entire event was incredible.

Maibaumfest (May Pole Festival)

Maibaum festivals, also known as Maypole festivals, are cherished traditions in villages across southern Germany. These festivals typically take place on May 1st, or around that time, to welcome the arrival of spring. The centerpiece of the celebration is the Maibaum, a tall wooden pole adorned with colorful ribbons, wreaths, and symbols representing local crafts and customs. Villagers come together to raise the Maibaum in the town square, accompanied by music, dancing, and merriment. The Maypole is often decorated with a carved wooden crown at the top, and it stands proudly throughout the month as a symbol of community unity and the renewal of life after winter. The festival fosters a strong sense of local identity and cultural pride, making it a delightful experience for both locals and visitors.

This is one of our favorite festivals! In our town, the festival is such a huge ordeal that they can only have it every five years. We were lucky that one of those five years was soon after we first moved here. It took six hours for the men of the Trachtenverein (Traditional Club) to push up the gigantic pole (which is a gigantic tree log taken from a nearby forest), all while taking many breaks to drink their beers. We were able to talk with our neighbours and friends, so it really felt like we were part of the community.

The men of the Trachtenverein putting up the Maibaum (May pole). It took them SIX hours, but that’s because this whole event is about the journey of putting up the pole. They take breaks every few pushes to drink from their Maßkrüge (one liter beers). So by the time the pole is up, the men are quite drunk! Women in Dirndls provide the endless amounts of beer.

Dorffest (Village Festival)

Dorffest or Village Festival is a common celebration in smaller communities, where locals gather to enjoy live music, dance, and traditional food and drinks. These festivals often reflect the unique customs and heritage of the specific village.

Weinfest (Wine Festival)

Germany is famous for its wine regions, and many towns host Weinfests during the summer to celebrate local wine production. Visitors can sample different wines, enjoy live music, and indulge in regional delicacies.

German Village Festivals - there are many wine festivals in the Rhine region of Germany.
There are many wine festivals in the Rhine river region of Germany.

Biergartenfest (Beer Garden Festival)

In towns with beer gardens, Biergartenfests are held to celebrate local beer culture. These festivals feature a wide selection of beers, including regional brews, along with music and typical beer garden fare.

Sommerfest (Summer Festival) and Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival)

Sommerfest is a general term for summer celebrations that can take various forms, including music festivals, cultural events, and community gatherings. They often involve outdoor activities, games, and culinary delights. Some even offer small carnival rides and beer tents, so the events can really be fun for all ages!

Lichterfest (Festival of Lights)

Lichterfest is a popular event held in various towns where decorative lights illuminate the streets and public spaces, creating a magical atmosphere. These festivals might include concerts, art installations, and food stalls. Our village has one each year and it’s one of our favourites! It takes place in the Kurpark (the main park in town) and includes traditional Bavarian music, dancing, and even whip dances (Goaßlschnalzen)!

German Village Festivals are a great way to experience authentic German culture!
A village festival in southern Germany, complete with Trachten!

Gaufest (Regional Festival)

Gaufests are regional gatherings organized by traditional German clubs, often focusing on showcasing local costumes, dances, and cultural heritage. They are an excellent opportunity to experience authentic folk traditions.

Kirmes (Church Fair)

Kirmes is a traditional church fair celebrated in many small towns across Germany. It combines religious elements with a festive atmosphere, including rides, games, food stands, and a market.

Schützenfest (Marksmen’s Festival)

Schützenfest is a popular festival with historical roots, where marksmen’s clubs come together to compete in shooting competitions. It’s accompanied by parades, music, and communal feasting.

German Village Festivals - Medieval festivals are popular
Here you see a scene from a Mittelalterfest – these pop up all over southern Germany!

Mittelalterfest (Medieval Festival)

Medieval festivals offer a captivating journey back in time. These events rekindle the spirit of the Middle Ages with authentic costumes, jousting tournaments, market stalls selling traditional crafts and foods, and lively performances of music, dance, and theater from the era. Festivals such as the Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum (MPS) and Ritterfest (Knight Festival) attract locals and tourists alike, providing an enchanting and immersive experience into the fascinating world of the Middle Ages. I hesitated to add them to the list as some of the festivals can be quite large, but there are other smaller ones in small towns throughout Germany as well. They are our favorite festivals because they often take place at a Medieval castle, so you really feel as if you’re stepping back in time!

Erdbeerfest (Strawberry Festival)

Some towns organize Erdbeerfests to celebrate the strawberry season. Visitors can enjoy strawberry-themed treats like cakes, jams, and beverages while partaking in various activities.

Spargel is white asparagus and it’s a cult classic in the spring in Germany!

Spargelfest (Asparagus Festival)

During the asparagus season, Spargelfests are held to honor this prized vegetable. These festivals offer a wide variety of asparagus dishes and highlight the importance of local asparagus cultivation. I have a whole post and video about our first time trying Spargel – check it out here.

Herbstfest (Autumn Festival)

Herbstfests, or Autumn Festivals, are celebrated all across Germany during the fall season. These festivals embrace the beauty of autumn and its bountiful harvest. Local communities come together to enjoy a variety of activities, including seasonal markets selling fresh produce, arts and crafts, and traditional foods. Visitors can sample delicious regional specialties, such as roasted chestnuts, pumpkin dishes, and apple-based treats. Herbstfests often feature live music, cultural performances, and fun-filled games for families. The festivals create a warm and festive atmosphere, providing a delightful opportunity to immerse oneself in German traditions and savor the flavors of the autumn season.

In my opinion, these festivals are often quite similar in style and have similar offerings as Oktoberfest, without the high prices and crowds. Many of them even have small fair rides, so they’re lots of fun for the whole family! I would highly recommend going to an Herbstfest if you’d like to avoid the crowds! Here’s one that’s in our area, in Rosenheim, however, I wouldn’t classify it as a village festival at all. It’s very large and can get crowded, but it’s less crowded than Oktoberfest.

How to Find Out About German Village Festivals

It can be difficult for an outsider to know about the local German village festivals. The villages do not advertise them heavily – some are mostly known by word of mouth! The dates and specific details of these festivals vary from town to town, so it’s best to inquire locally or check town websites and event calendars to plan your visit accordingly. I have found the best way to know what’s going on in a local village is to check out their Facebook page or ask a local person.

You can also find ads for local events at the village supermarket. Participating in these local celebrations provides a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique customs and traditions of smaller German communities.

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