The main reason that I was hanging around a snowy Munich square, was that I was waiting to witness the spectacle that is the Schäfflertanz (or The Cooper’s Dance), that takes place just before Carnival time once every seven years!
Thought to originate in the 1500’s after the plague visited and decimated the local population, the Coopers of Munich very kindly decided to put on a special dance to tempt people back out of confinement, and to cheer them up! I am not sure why it’s performed only every seven years however…
The crowd close to the Hofbraukeller told us we were in the right place, and sure enough at 11.30 the (disappointingly un-historic but practical) coach pulled up, and they all piled off, band first. The “Fools” followed close behind, and immediately set about covering people’s faces with ash – ours included! Then came the Schäfflers themselves immaculately dressed, and wielding the hefty fir boughs that they dance with…
And then off they went… some 30-odd (not altogether that small) men in brightly coloured uniforms, performing immaculate timed historic dances whilst swinging ginormous bits of tree. It sounds odd, and it might have been just ever so slightly, but it was also completely brilliant, and they were very obviously enjoying themselves! The atmosphere was great!
The culmination of the performance was the formation of a rather large fir-bough crown in the centre of the dancers, followed by a speech (you will forgive me if I can’t tell you what he said, my German lessons don’t start until March!), and a bit of hoop swinging. But not just any old hoop swinging, this hoop had little glasses glued to the inside, which were filled with something dangerous no doubt, and he didn’t spill a drop!
Watching this ancient tradition being kept alive, it reminded me of England’s Morris Dancers in lots of ways, but you might argue that the Schäffler’s have better outfits!…
As a Landlord’s daughter, I remember our pub being the focal point for the local Morris Dancers who would turn up and give a hearty performance in return for lots of beer (that’s how it seemed to a 9 year old anyway!). But this lot would have been more than welcome with my Dad, as they bring their own barrels with them! That hideous wooden horse thing that the Morris Dancers cart around with them was never a welcome visitor for me however. What with it’s clicky clacky teeth, it was the stuff of nightmares! Luckily there are no grotesque horses in the Schäffler’s troup!
Afterwards we retired to the Hofbrau Keller for lunch and to thaw out, and to take advantage of the complimentary babysitting for an hour or two while we thawed out….
Apparently you can command the Cooper’s to perform for you, but as they only have a limited time to fit everyone in, the chances are you won’t get a personal performance. But should you be in Munich over the next few days, there’s still a chance you can see them performing at various sites around the city, up until Shrove Tuesday. If not, then you can actually catch a glimpse of them on a daily basis, on the lower Carillion of the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz!
PS. Mum, I found someone who wants to be in your gang!
I really enjoyed that! The post’s like a front seat view. Have some ash on my nose too :)
All the best for your German lessons in March, Emma!
Thanks Pia! So glad not to have missed these guys, another seven years and who knows where we will be! :)
Loving those knickerbockers. I would like to dance in knickerbockers with a bit of tree – looks fun.
Great aren’t they! You never know, if you write them a letter!!!…. :)
Bibsey Mama says
This looks brilliant… and erm, freeeezing!
It was both, thank you! :)
Erica Price says
We did German accents and dialects in my German class this week & I couldn’t make head nor tail of the Bayerisch accent too. Apparently though it’s the most liked one in Germany.
It’s definitely very soft, but completely different from German isn’t it?! I can now greet people though which is better than nothing! :)
Ha, ha – I am sure she is better at sledging then I am! x
I can’t tell you that I am afraid, but it did make me laugh! :)
Helen from the good life mum says
Wow that’s looks cold there, what a great thing to see . Hope you remembered to clean your nose :)
My brother in law actually forgot. I could post a photograph but he would kill me! :)
Oh, I would have loved to have seen that – especially the hoops and the glasses filled with whatever-it-was!
If it’s any comfort, even if you already spoke German, you might not have gotten much out of the speech anyway… Bayrisch isn’t always so easy to understand! (one of my co workers is Bavarian and I am always having to ask him to repeat himself…at first I thought my hearing was going, but I finally just figured out it was the Bayrisch!)
Can’t wait to see your posts on Fasching….have I mentioned already that I’m jealous? ; )
Thanks MsCaroline, that makes me feel better. It’s amazing how different they both sound next to each other! I will sample plenty of Carnival Krapfen for you! Emma :)
2 fantastic posts (I followed the link too). I wonder why they have a seven year itch: the dancers not your mother! And I know nothing of the Morris dancer’s horse. Sounds like I would be best not investigating! But off to google I went anyway … Have you posted about the Rathaus Glockenspiel yet? I hope I haven’t missed that one.
Thank you Kellogsville! Have seen a few articles that suggest it was down to seven being a lucky number, but then others suggest it was because that’s how often the plague was thought to resurface… Have added a link to the Glockenspiel now. I am sure I have mentioned it, but not posted specifically about it! Emma :) xx