Munich sees itself as a city that exists between the traditional and the modern. A separate culture of tradition has developed in the metropolis. Munich customs, the city festivals and markets, really have their own flair and are more imbued with urban history and the traditions of craftspeople and burghers than with rural customs.
Most of the traditional events take place annually. The exceptions to this rule are the Schäfflertanz which is performed once every seven years – next event in 2019 – the Central Agricultural Festival, which takes place every leap year, and the Metzgersprung (Butchers' Leap) into the Fischbrunnen on Marienplatz (every three years, next event in 2019).
Carnival in Munich – Fasching – has its own character. It is rung in on November 11 in the city center, on Marienplatz and on Viktualienmarkt, by the two Mardi Gras associations, Würmesia and Narrhalla. The pinnacle of the Fasching celebrations is, besides the balls, the last three days, which come under the heading "München narrisch" ("Munich tomfoolery"), the dance of the market women on Viktualienmarkt, and the washing of the city heads' wallets in the Fish Fountain in front of the New Town Hall on Ash Wednesday.
From the dance of the market women to the washing of wallets at the Fischbrunnen: Munich celebrates in all seasons.
In recent years, however, the "Damische Ritter" ("Daft Knights") have found more and more fans and followers. The Fasching balls are a nice way to dance the cold out of your bones in the early part of the year, but the visitors to the May Dance enjoy all the gifts of spring: beautiful weather, putting up the maypole and the ubiquitous May celebrations in various parts of the city.
The Kocherlball (ball of the servants) every summer also draws a lively crowd. This event, featuring folk dances, usually takes place on the third Sunday in July at the Chinese Tower beer garden in the Englischer Garten. It starts before sunrise. For many, it is the perfect occasion to put on an authentic traditional Munich costume, which evolved from the age of Biedermeier and is unique in the way it is made.
Munich's folkloric costumes, the Tracht, is cultivated by folkloric associations such as "Die Schöne Münchnerin" and "Lechler". Loden, a kind of felt used for clothing, also dates to the Biedermeier age. In fall, everyone trips the light fantastic at the Kirchweihtanz, a parish fair. But one month later, the tone changes: "Kathrein stellt den Tanz ein" ("Kathrein stops the dancing") is the motto for the Kathreintanz, the Dance of St. Catherine's Day, which heralds the end of the annual cycle of dances.
Once a month, singers and musicians perform in various public venues for the Münchner Hoagartn. Modern Bavarian music has become something of a tradition on its own. It has produced some outstanding Bavarian bands, like Schlachthofbronx, LaBrassBanda and Blumentopf, or any number of ensembles featuring the sons and daughters of the great family of musicians, the Wells.
May devotions, Corpus Christi, Christmas mass: Munich's festival calendar is also marked by religious traditions.
Munich's festivities calendar is deeply marked by church traditions. Open-air masses are part and parcel of the high religious holidays: Archbishop Reinhard Marx will be celebrating the city's May devotions at the Marian Column on Marienplatz together with the faithful from the regional parishes around Munich. These devotions are accompanied musically by the Munich Cathedral Choir and the Munich Cathedral Winds.
The Corpus Christi service will also be held on Marienplatz, if the weather is good. If not, it will be in the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Following the mass, a procession will wend its way through the decorated streets of the Old Town, to the Ludwigskirche and then back to Marienplatz. Visitors to the Munich's popular midnight masses at the inner-city churches often drive in from a long way away. Christmas Eve music at wintery cemeteries is the perfect way to tune into the quieter mood of Christmas.
Festivities for the meditative or the cheerful: The Spring Festival, the "little sister of Oktoberfest" on the Theresienwiese, has long become a popular alternative to the "big sister" for Munich's visitors. The Maidult in the Au district is the launchpad for the fair season, which features three events. The booths at the Maidult are a thrill for collectors: they offer antiques, curiosities, porcelain, books, art, clothing and junk.
The Stadtgründungsfest in mid-June features music, games and dancing, as well as booths with culinary specialties and crafts in the Alter Hof in the middle of the city. An entire "craft village" is set up, and children can enjoy tinkering as well, or peening and other activities. The Magdalenenfest is a "small fair" with rides and gastronomical specialties. It is held in the beautiful Hirschgarten. The Jakobidult bridges July and August.
The undisputable high point of the year is Oktoberfest or "Wiesn”, the world's most famous popular festival. Two weeks following the "Wiesn," the season of fairs ends with the Kirchweihdult. And then the mood goes from the cheerful back to the meditative: The year of festivals comes to an end with the Christkindlmarkt on Marienplatz and its many little offshoots in the various districts of the city.
The Viktualienmarkt is the perfect place to experience local traditions: The Brass Music and Traditional Costumes Festival, for instance, is held in June and July on the marketplace. "Gärtnertag", which originated in the 17th century, is held on the first Tuesday in August. It involves a procession of wonderfully decorated fruit, vegetable and flower floats that moves from Viktualienmarkt to the Hofbräuhaus accompanied by music bands.
Spectators on the way are given flowers and vegetables. And where else but on Viktualienmarkt could one find a tradition like Weighing the VIP. It has been done every year on the first Thursday following Oktoberfest since 1974. The choice of VIP remains a secret until the event itself. Their weight in groceries is then donated (along with a cash donation) to charity.
Munich is the city of beer, and celebrates this fact wholeheartedly, for instance, with the Strong Beer or the Maibock beer festivals. The "Derblecken" celebrations on the Nockherberg, with the Strong Beer tapping, and the Maibock beer tapping have now become major social and media events. And even if it is not simulcast on television, the Bavarian Beer Day is a very lively festival that is held within the framework of a "Beer Week." And in June of every even year, Munich's brewers swear the "Preu-Aid" (an oath to traditional brewing of beer) during Brewer's Day (next time 29 June 2019) and hold a small parade from the Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter) to the Viktualienmarkt.