Think you have to wait ‘til autumn for an Oktoberfest kind of German event? We have good news – you don’t! May is also historically a time of celebration in Germany, known as “Maifest.” And we have one fine wine and stein-filled Maifest for you!

By Peg Cameron Gill

In German, the month of May is “Mai.” And Maifest is the official German celebration that marks the arrival of spring. 

Early Germans called May “Wunnimanuth” (the pasture month). Back then, months were often named for seasonal activities. In this case, May was a time to return animals outdoors to pasture, after spending the cold, grueling winter indoors. 

What better way to celebrate the return of spring here in Missouri than with a marvelous Maifest in Hermann, an anchor of the historic German Heritage Corridor? This fun-filled event unfolds the weekend of May 19- 21. 

Hermann’s annual celebration of spring is a much-loved tradition. The fest — one of Missouri’s oldest German fests — has many germane German highlights, including Maypole dancers, the Volkesplatz Marketplace, beer gardens, German music and food, activities for children, and craft demonstrations. Festivities finish Sunday afternoon with the Maifest parade.

Among the festivities for Friday, May 19: The Schnitzeljagd für Kinder (Kids’ scavenger hunt — though no actual Schnitzel is involved!) from 10 am to 5 pm. The happy hunting takes place in the historic district at Schiller Street, from 1st to 4th and E. 3rd Street from Schiller to Gutenberg. Maps for the hunt are available at Blondie’s Dolls Toy Shop, 201 Schiller, and Sugar Mama’s Candies, 407 Market. Savvy scavengers up to age 15 are welcome, accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Jaycee Beer Garden will be serving suds in Sesquicentennial Park, 3rd and Gutenberg, and you can enjoy live music with no cover charge. 

More entertaining events take place on Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, including repeats of the scavenger hunt and beer garden. Some other one-day only highlights include: a Hermann Heritage Craft Exhibition, a “hinunter hund” (down dog) yoga class, a Paint ‘n Sip, and more.

Photo credit: Sven Mieke, Unsplash

You can find a full schedule of Maifest events here.

A bit of Maifest history, if we Mai: In modern day Germany, people in cities and villages continue the custom of decorating  with ribbons and flowers. (In the Rhineland, it was customary for a young man to tie colorful ribbons in the garden of a girl he liked. During leap years, girls did the ribbon tying.)

Most towns will put up a “Maibaum” or May Pole. There are also blazing bonfires to chase the darkness, and dances to celebrate. As with every German celebration, there are customary foods and special drinks, like Maibock (a strong spring beer), and Maibowle (a wine punch with Waldmeister, a German syrup named after its signature flavor of woodruff, a flowering perennial plant).

Interested in learning more about Missouri’s German heritage, or residents of German descent? Check out this article or this one.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.