Category Archives: German Traditions

Oktoberfest in Germany Versus California

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OKTOBERFEST IN GERMANY VERSUS CALIFORNIA

For many Germans, the most wonderful time of the year is back – the German Oktoberfest.  For two weeks, from September 16th till October 3rd, people from all over the world will be visiting the most well-known German festival in Munich.  From 1810, when the Oktoberfest was founded until today, the festival has become one of the most popular ones around the world.

Visitors in traditional Trachten (women in Dirndls and men in Lederhosen) can enjoy the atmosphere in various big and small beer tents that serve the notorious Mass, a one liter beer.  I have been to the original Oktoberfest once when I was 18. One of my best friends from High School and I decided to do a road trip to Stuttgart, where my friend had relatives.

Those relatives happened to have plans to visit the Oktoberfest that year, and so they invited us along.  Before that day, I only had caught glimpses and impressions of the festival from magazines and documentaries on TV.  Since I knew that a lot of German celebrities attended the event each year, I was intrigued to check out the hype myself.

My friend’s relatives luckily had a table reserved in the VIP area of one of the beer tents.  Unlike the majority of guests, we weren’t dressed up at all. I can still remember the anticipation I felt walking up to the beer tent, feeling somewhat special due to the fact we wouldn’t have to wait in line like the poor souls who weren’t blessed with a table reservation like us.

But once we entered the sacred inside, I felt a slight breeze of disappointment coming my way.  It was crowded.  It was stuffy.  It was loud.  Don’t get me wrong- of course I knew that there would be a ton of people, which would automatically result in a lot of noise.

But for me, it was just too over the top.  I didn’t catch a glimpse of any hot and poppin’ celebrities because there were none there (I guess our tent wasn’t really a hotspot for the stars) nor did I get into the German folklore music that was blasting out of the speakers.

Once we were seated at our table, I felt a little bit more comfortable since it was way back in the corner of the tent, and we weren’t surrounded by the immense crowds of people. The moment my mood improved for the better was when we decided to get food.

I have always been a foodie, so it was a no brainer for me to give the traditional Munich cuisine a try. I went with one of the typical Bavarian dishes: white sausage with sweet mustard and pretzel.  Once the food was served I started to enjoy the atmosphere a little.

The food was delicious, and I was fascinated by how the Oktoberfest servers managed to carry about ten Mass at the same time while squeezing through the tight crowds.   I personally declined to drink one of the famous one liter beers, but I was impressed by how others were able to chug them down. After a while, my friend and I had soaked in enough of the beer tent experience and decided to partake in the hustle and bustle outside.

Besides the many beer tents, the Oktoberfest also hosted a fair with carnival rides, games, and food booths.  While I am usually a big advocate for these things, I wasn’t feeling it at all that day.  It was just too crowded, and the fact that the side lawns were occupied by drunkards who were passed out on the grass just killed the vibe for us.  We eventually decided to take off and declared the Oktoberfest as a personal no-go.

I never returned to the original event in Germany, but I decided to give an American Oktoberfest in Orange County a chance. This time, I only went with Americans.  And what can I say; I ended up having a blast.  The event started out slow in the beginning, but we had arrived fairly early to avoid the entrance fee, and not many people had showed up yet.

But as the night progressed, the event got busier (not as crazy as the uber-crowded tents in Munich) and my friends and I enjoyed participating in activities such as the chicken dance and the polonaise.  I first was hesitant about joining in the dancing fun until one fellow German guy came up to me and asked me to dance.  It turned out that he was living and working in Irvine, and we had an instant connection.

The rest of the night felt like it was progressing in fast forward.  As they say, time does fly by when you are having fun.  The band that played German folklore kept an upbeat rhythm all night, and games such as beer chug kept the crowd entertained.  My newfound German friend and I enjoyed dancing and talking together, and we later on exchanged information to set up a date aside from the Oktoberfest.

I did return another year, that time with a couple German friends in tow.  They were all a little hesitant of what to think about the Americanized version, but we still had a good time together. As of now, that was the last time I attended any kind of Oktoberfest.  But I hope all of you who are going to the original one in Munich or here in the U.S. are going to have a wonderful time and get to experience this well-known part of German culture if you wish so.

A little fun fact: The term O’ Zapft is translated means “it’s tapped.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, “At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the Mayor of Munich traditionally taps the first keg of beer, exclaiming the above phrase, which marks the official opening of the festival,” (http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com)

Images: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Beethoven’s Ninth with Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl- July 13 & 18

The whole world is widely familiar with the impressive start of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, which is probably the most distinctive four-note motif in music history. Beethovens 9th symphony however is considered Beethoven’s greatest work, if not “the greatest compositions in the western musical canon”.

It is Beethoven’s final complete composition and one, in which voices are being used in a symphony for the very first time. Hence the name “Choral Symphony”. The famous “Ode to Joy”, which follows a poem by Friedrich Schiller, is known all over the world, but it has a much deeper meaning for us Germans. I may say it has become somehow part of our German National Anthem. Especially since the German public radio station Deutschlandfunk has been broadcasting “Ode to Joy” together with the official German National Anthem (“Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit”) shortly before midnight since New Year’s Eve 2006.”

But Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is also used as the anthem of the European Union and stands with the other European symbols for the whole of Europe. It also serves as the theme song to the European qualifying of the 2018 World Cup football competition.

On July 13 or 18, you can experience Beethoven’s epic Ninth Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl! Dudamel’s all-consuming love of music drives him to invest every note with meaning and new life. Don’t miss it when he leads Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the first piece he performed as Music Director of the LA Phil.

Tickets are on sale now! http://bit.ly/hb17_Calendar_Beethovenninth 

One lucky CaliforniaGermans reader will have the opportunity to receive One Voucher valid for two guests. The voucher is good for two tickets to a variety of Hollywood Bowl concerts!

Here is how to get the voucher: – All you need to do is send us an email to : californiagermans [at] gmail.com , and put in the subject line: “I am ready for my Hollywood Bowl Voucher”

The first CaliforniaGermans writing us an email as described above, will receive one voucher that is good for two tickets for a variety of Hollywood Bowl concerts not only Beethoven’s 9th Symphony!


Sources: wikipedia, Deutsche Welle,

Credits: LA PHIL

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German May Celebrations in California are Underway

As Germans we are familiar with May 1st as the “Tag der Arbeit”. It’s a National Holiday in Germany and it’s often times also a day filled with protests and demonstrations in the bigger cities. The Union (Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund) is organizing rallies on that day to commemorate the achievements in the labor movement.

But there are also the May 1st traditions that go way back in history like the observation of the Walpurgisnacht (Night of the witches) or the stealing of the village maypole by a neighboring village. I am sure you remember the Maitanz (May Pole Dance). Many of us had to perform one in our Kindergarten years to enchant our parents. I certainly still remember mine or better just the fact that one little boy got terribly entangled in all the bands around the may pole. It’s for sure not as easy a dance as it might look!

Many German clubs and schools in California keep those wonderful traditions alive and invite the public to their annual Maifest (May celebrations).

In the following please find a roundup of what we have heard of:

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Highland Hall Waldorf School invites to their annual May Faire with May Pole Dancing, Native American Pow Wow, Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles and Country Music/Folk Dancing. Lost of Activities are offered as well. There will be live music, storytelling,delectable healthy baked goods and food vendors, exquisite artisan vendors, children’s games, arts and craft-making activities for ALL ages!  Visitors will  be able to enjoy time in our farm, and the Native American Village.

When: Saturday May6 from 10am-4pm , Admission is FREE!

Where: Highland Hall Waldorf School, 17100 Superior Street, Northridge, CA 91325

More Info at http://www.HighlandHallWaldorfMayFaire.com

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The Phoenix Club in Anaheim celebrates its traditional Maifest combined with its Kinderfest on May 7th , 2017. The German American League Clubs will start out the festivities with a parade at 1pm. Lots of activities for children will be offered. Witness the election of the Maikönigin (May Queen)and of course the famous May Pole Dance and much more.

When: Sunday, May 7th from 11am-6pm, Admission $7 (Pre-sale) or $10 at the gate. Children 16 and under are free.

Where: Phoenix club Biergarten, 1340 S. Sanderson Avenue
Anaheim, California 92806

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Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool in L.A. has its May Faire Celebration with May Pole Dancing, Music Performances, Puppet Show, Face painting and much more.

When: Saturday, May 20th from 11am-3pm; suggested donation $10

Where: Tivoli Rainbow Garden Preschool, 3170 Stoner Ave,Los Angeles, CA 90066

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GISSV German International School in Emeryville has its Multicultural Summerfest on May 20, 2017. There will be a Rummage Sale with finds like German books and more. You can enjoy the International Food Festival and Live Music and Activities for kids of all ages, with arts & crafts, woodworking, yoga, soccer and more.

When: Saturday, May 20th, from 1pm-4pm

Where: 1070 41st Street, Emeryville, CA

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Oakland Nature Friends & Tourist Club celebrates its traditional Maifest with Bavarian Schuhplattler Dancers, the Gruber Family Band and German food, beer and dancing. There is something for everyone of all ages at the Maifest!

When: Sunday, May 7th from 12pm-6pm. Admission: Buy tickets online!  (Kids under 14 are free.)

Where: Oakland Nature Friends, 3115 Butters Drive, Oakland, CA 94602

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Sacramento Turn Verein has its 49th annual Bockbierfest! Experience traditional German Folk Dancing, the Alpentanzer Schuhplattler, a traditional German Choir while you enjoy authentic German food and Bockbierfest Bier.

When: Saturday May 6th from 3pm – midnight. Admission: Buy Tickets online!

Where: Sacramento Turn Verein, 3349 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816


Image: Courtesy of Highland Hall Waldorf School/ Taylor Myers

Sponsored by www.Adolesco.org

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My Easter Tradition

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MY EASTER TRADITION

Back in the days when I was a little kid and living in Germany, Easter was one of my favorite holidays.  I loved believing in the Easter bunny, which would come out early in the morning to hide eggs, candy, and toys all around the house and backyard.

My family’s tradition consisted of going to church in the morning, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Once the service was over I remember how excited I usually became, knowing there were lots of surprises waiting at home for my sister and I.  My mother was usually the one hiding all the Easter goodies the night before, but when I was little I truly believed that the Easter bunny was doing all the hard work.

At a certain age I knew that my parents were the ones behind everything, but I still didn’t mind hunting for toys and candy.  It was such a blast, especially since we had a three story home with a small yard, so there were lots of hiding spots.  Once all the surprises were collected, us kids usually inspected everything and tested the new toys.

After the first excitement of the hunt eventually subsided, it was time for brunch.  For that, we usually had a big family gathering either at a hotel or restaurant, where a buffet was offered.  It was the perfect solution and suited everybody’s taste.  Also, since we were a group of about ten people, none of our family members had to stand in the kitchen for hours.  My family is actually still holding up that tradition, just nowadays without me since I moved to the United States.

Since I have been living in America, I have been celebrating Easter, if at all, very differently.  My first Easter in the states was back in 2012, when I was living with a family that had two young children.

One year, I remember I prepared Easter baskets for them that were filled with chocolates and small toys.  I left them on the kitchen table with a note, wishing them a Happy Easter while they were out and about.  The next year, I went to a family gathering with them, but it was still not the same as back in my childhood days.

The following years, I wasn’t celebrating the Holiday at all, and if I wouldn’t have seen it marked in my calendar, I would have had no idea what date Easter was that year.  It just felt different for me over here, I can’t really explain why, but I didn’t have such a connection as I had back in Europe growing up.

Last year marked the first time in a while where I had an Easter experience somewhat similar to my childhood days.  You can describe it as the adult version of what the tradition for us kids looked like.  My now-roommate was house sitting at a beautiful home, fully equipped with a pool and hot tub.

Since she introduced a brunch tradition to her friends many years ago, she extended the invite to me, and I was more than happy to accept since I missed the family Easter brunch gatherings.

It was a beautiful Sunday, the sun was shining, and my roommates’ friends and I started arriving at the location one after another.  Entering the house, I could already smell eggs, bacon (that was the time I was still eating meat), and pancakes.

We gathered around the backyard, some people hanging out in a hammock, others in the hot tub, pool, and benches all around, while the two dogs of the homeowners kept roaming around us.

We had a great time talking, eating, and enjoying the sun together until it was time for the annual beer hunt. Yes, my roommate upgraded the traditional egg hunt to a fun-filled beer hunt, where all of us participants received a beer carton and had to find as many beers as would fit into it.

All the while knowing how clumsy I am, especially when it comes to handling fragile items such as glass, I entered this content with caution, but finished with no further incidents.

After all beer bottles were found, all participants sat back outside with their precious findings, looking forward to indulge into the liquid goodies.  I was sitting in the sun, sipping on my drink when I decided it was getting too hot and wanted to move into the shade, of course not without my cargo.

What I did not consider was that my beer carton, which was soaked up on the bottom with water from the pool, had become a little fragile.  I lifted it up, not supporting the bottom with my hands, and sure enough, it made a quick rip and all remaining bottles smashed on the concrete ground.

Everyone was staring very surprised and quietly at the mess I just had created, until some of us were able to digest the shock a little and got up to clean up the glass.  Oh well, since I am not a big drinker anyways I wasn’t too upset I wasn’t able to drink more, but I did feel very bad about the broken glass all over the floor.

My roommate did invite me again to this year’s Easter brunch/ beer hunt, but luckily I will be up in LA this time, hopefully not breaking anything.  However all of you who are celebrating or not celebrating the Holiday, I wish you a very Happy Easter!

Image: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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sponsored by ADOLESCO.ORG

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Weihnachtsbäckerei – Part 5: Butterplätzchen

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Butterplätzchen – Butter Cookies

A classic in German Christmas baking is the Butterplätzchen (butter cookie). It’s a favorite for baking with children. They love using cookie cutters in all kinds of shapes to make these most classic Christmas cookie of all and decorate them later. The difference between American and German Christmas butter cookies might not only be the recipe but also the size. Usually the German variation is thinner and much smaller in size than its US counterpart.

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 250 g – flour
  • 200g – butter
  • 100g – Baker’s sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp – rum
  • grated skin of one lemon

Ingredients for the decoration:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • for decorating: chocolate sprinkles, colored sugar sprinkles or pearls, smarties , coarse sugar, etc.

Prepare a shortcrust pastry ( Knetteig) by sifting the flour on a board, adding the sugar and the butter cut in little flakes on top. Make a little depression in the middle of the heap of the flour mixture and add the egg yolk, rum and grated lemon.

Blend the ingredients by first chopping them with a large knife, then kneading them to a smooth dough with your hands.

Form a big round ball out of the dough, wrap it in parchment paper and let it rest for about 30 min in the refrigerator.

Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to about 3mm weihnachtsbackereibutterkekspixabaythin. Cut out different forms with your cookie cutters. Place the various cookie shapes on a lined baking sheet, and bake them for about 356-392 Fahrenheit in the pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes. They should look golden brown.

Before you start decorating your cookies, place the cookies on a cooling rack. Then whisk the egg yolk used for decorating with the 1 tbsp milk and brush the cookies with a thin layer. Decorate them with chocolate sprinkles, colored sugar pearls or coarse sugar.

…and you are ready to enjoy one of the most traditional German Christmas Cookies!

Happy Forth Sunday of Advent!

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Let us know your favorite German Christmas Cookie Recipe and send it to CaliforniaGermans(at)gmail.com !

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com


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