There are very many folk dances traditionally practiced in Germany. Among the best known, however, are the Schuhplattler and the waltz.

1. The waltz

Hochzeitspaar beim Walzertanzen

This dance can be practiced only in pairs. The step pattern in 3/4 time must be strictly observed. Very distinctive for him are the fast body turns. So it is not far that the name originated from the old German word “walzen”(to turn). The waltz is danced in many styles. The best known should be the Viennese Waltz. The most famous composer of waltzes in the world is Johann Strauss(1825-1899, Austrian). The term waltz appeared for the first time in 1781 in one of Friedrich Schiller’s works.

2. Schuhplattler

2 men playing Schuhplatteln

This traditional folk dance is also known worldwide for Germany and Austria. It exists in many different forms, but the basic form is always the same. The most popular forms are the “Holzhacker” and e.g. the “Bankerl” where a bench is used as a sport object. According to a legend, it goes back to the mating dance of the capercaillie and is said to have been practiced similarly in this region for a good 1000 years. Basically, it is a test of strength of boys for the courtship of the ladies present, who are also included in the dance.

The men clap themselves alternately after firm pattern on thigh and shoe sole. Meanwhile, they stomp(platteln) vigorously with their feet on the melodious wooden floor. Obligatory, of course, is the quaint elaborately decorated costume of leather pants, felt hat with feather, flat low shoes and thick knee socks.

Schuhplättler 1950er
Schuhplättler 1950s


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The Maypole(Maibaum)

What is a maypole?

It is a very large tree trunk which is decorated with a crown. The whole thing is solemnly erected on May 1 in the village or market square.

The first of May is a crucial cutoff date in agriculture, known as “lot day.” It is halfway between the summer and winter seasons.

In the rural imagination, this period of transition was perilous. One believed in malevolent forces that could cause harm. Therefore, the tree was placed as a phallic representation of fertility and new life. While the tree’s trunk represents strength and health, the wreaths at its apex request fertility.

The religious significance of trees is indigenous to numerous European cultures. Young trees and new branches are typically viewed as a symbol of solidarity and expansion. The Vikings erected the Thors Tree, a wooden pole with a floral wreath, on May 1 at their spring festival. In contrast, the Swedish Midsummer Tree is not erected until the summer solstice in June, but its appearance is nearly identical to the Maypoles found in many Bavarian towns.

The Symbolism of the Maypole

At the conclusion of the eighteenth century, the maypole became a symbol of the new Bavarian state consciousness. The free communities viewed it as a symbol of the independence they had achieved as citizens within the minister Montgelas’s state structure. A village’s cohesion and prosperity found and continue to find visible expression in the maypole.

When is the maypole chopped down?

Maypoles were traditionally erected on Walpurgis night, frequently on the morning of May 1. Today, this occurs earlier, among other reasons, so that they can be prepared and cleaned up in peace. Therefore, they must be strictly guarded during this time due to the abundance of maypole thieves who spare no effort.

German Maypole Tradition
Maypole, Foto: @axel.bueckert via Twenty20