Many visit Germany to view its picturesque landscape or ancient architecture, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't also partake in some of the rich German culture and German traditions available. Whether you'e skiing in the Black Forest, or visiting Hamburg, the Green City on the Water, there are plenty of memorable events to experience.
With a history stretching back thousands of years, German culture has evolved considerably from the first Germanic settlers through Charlemagne to Martin Luther and later Bismarck. Their heritage, a mix of paganism and Christianity, can be seen in the wide variety of German traditions and holidays in Germany that are celebrate each year.
January is a relatively tranquil month, with only a few Carnival related events to be found. The most important of these is the declaration of the Carnival King. However, the climax of Carnival season really comes in February and March. Some of the holidays in Germany are somber, such as the sacrifice and fasting for Lent, but Carnival stands in stark contrast as an affirmation of life.
May marks the beginning of the summer festivals. As the weather warms, outdoor activities increase. Most towns and villages, particularly those in Bavaria or the Rhineland, have their own summer fairs in addition to the holidays celebrated by the rest of Germany. Also be on the lookout for an increased number of concerts hosted in historic buildings. The religious celebration of Whitsun can be found across the land and the Catholic event of Corpus Christi is best seen in Cologne or Bamberg.
Music lovers will delight throughout the summer. In June, there are numerous events each weekend, many of which are dedicated to classical music. July sees the immensely popular festival devoted solely to Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. Thousands of fans of classical music arrive in Bavaria each year to experience some of the world's best opera. The festival has sold out every year since 1876 and if you want to attend, you'll need to book your reservations for the following year by October at the earliest.
To many, Oktoberfest epitomizes German culture, and is the most famous of the holidays in Germany. It isn't hard to see why it's so popular with its joyous celebration with exquisite beer, fresh food, and live music. Oddly enough, Oktoberfest takes places primarily in the month of September and overlaps but a little with the following month. Comparatively, October is a quiet month for German traditions with a few smaller festivals taking place.
November sees the famous Hamburger Dom fair in its namesake, Hamburg. Meanwhile, Martinfest—a celebration of Martin Luther who was a German native—is generally celebrated in the Rhineland and northern Baden.
December sees the appearance of the Christmas Markets. Instead of the typical commercialism of the holiday, you'l find stalls full of handmade goods. From toys to sweets to clothing, there are plenty of authentic German-made items to be found. The Markets generally run from the last week in November through Christmas Eve, give or take a day. The one time you might find them closed is the Sunday before Christmas. This date is one of the public holidays in Germany known as Remembrance Day.
The Christmas Market is such a strong German tradition that you'll be hard pressed to find a town that doesn't have one.
So whether you come for the cheer of Oktoberfest, the playful Carnival, or the beautiful goods of the Christmas Markets, you won't have any trouble finding marvels to behold in Germany.