Schäffler ~ in Altötting

There was no way to know when the decision was made, but we couldn't have chosen a better time to agree to a job change that would take us half-way around the world. 

First, there was , a phenomenon so significant and an undertaking so grand it has occurred only twice in 100 years. 

Then, in another fortuitous turn, I had opportunity to see the Schäfflertanz (abbreviated  Schäffler) performed; also know as the Dance of the Coopers ("cooper" is the term for barrel maker), it is performed only every seven years and for very special events (i.e., during the Munich Olympics, when Germany has won the World Cup).  If you've had opportunity to visit the famed Rathaus Glockenspiel in Munich's Marienplatz, you've actually seen a mechanical re-enactment of the dance.  

The Schäffler

Altötting, Bavaria, February 2012.  Can you see the shape of a crown?


The  Schäfflertanz orignated in 1517 following the death of almost 10,000 Munich residents from the Plague.  In an effort to restore joy to the people and coax them out of their shuttered homes after the disease ran its course, the Schäffler (barrel makers) took to the streets, dancing to festive music and brandishing garlanded hoops.  

SchäfflertanzThe dance's present-day form has been around since the late 1800s.  The dance troop is comprised of 20 dancers, two hoop twirlers (Reifenschwinger), two clowns (Kasperln) and one flag bearer (Fähnrich).  Traditional costumes are very specific–a red jacket, white shirt with white vest, black knee breeches, white knee socks, a green cap with a blue and white fluff, a triangular-cut leather apron, a sash with the Bavarian coat of arms and the arms of the coopers' guild, white gloves and black, buckled shoes.

The clowns manage all the props and hoop twirlers are said to have the most difficult job–holding "a wooden hoop with an indentation on the inside rim for a small glass filled with wine. Standing on the keg in the middle of the circle of the dancers, he twirls his hoop over his head and between his legs, being careful, of course, not to spill one drop of wine from the glass. At the end of his performance, he drinks the wine and tosses the glass over his shoulder where one of the clowns catches in his cap."

Schäffler band


I'm so glad my new friend Barb invited the expats to see the Schäffler performed; I would never have known about it otherwise.  Bavaria is rich in its traditions and simply living here is becoming educational.  The words, the customs, the culture–when I think about the whirlwind from the past 6 weeks, a little smoke escapes my ears :).

Wanna see a glimpse more?  A quick 44-second clip will give you a better picture of this wonderful Bavarian tradition ~ 



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