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2016 Germania Maifest Court The Germania Society of Cincinnati's Crowning of the MaiQueen Photo credit: James Czar
Germania Maipole The Germania Society of Cincinnati's permanent Maipole Photo credit: Germania Society
Roasted Boar on a Hard Roll Germania volunteers prepare a variety of delicious, traditional German foods Photo credit: Germania Society
Jagdhornbläser Gruppe The Germania Jagdhornbläser Gruppe (traditional hunting horn players) herald the opening of the 2015 Germania Maifest Photo credit: Mary Jo McClain
Sausage with Kraut and Potato Pancakes Germania Volunteers prepare a variety of traditional German delicacies Photo credit: Germania Society
Donauschwaben Schuhplattler Dancers The Donauschwaben Schuhplattler Gruppe performing a traditional Bavarian dance at the 2015 Germania Oktoberfest. Photo credit: James Czar
Rueben Germania volunteers prepare a variety of delicious, traditional German dishes Photo credit: Germania Society
Stein Slide Oktoberfest patrons enjoy a popular game of skill at the Germania Stein Slide booth Photo credit: Adam Rabinowitz
Maifest Patrons A local family enjoys the food and entertainment in the pavilion at the 2015 Maifest Photo credit: Mary Jo McClain
Chardon Polka Band A variety of excellent German and American bands perform at Germania Maifest Photo credit: Mary Jo McClain
2015 Bürgermeisterin Kara Sewell Honorary Bürgermeister Kara Sewell, from the Fox 19 Now morning show enjoys her favorite German desert: a Servatii's German cream puff Photo credit: Adam Rabinowitz
Maifest Royalty (L to R) Former Germania President, 2014 Maifest Queen runner-up, 2013 Maifest Queen, 2014 Maifest Queen, and 2014 Karneval Prinzessin Photo credit: Germania Society
Maifest (or Mayfest / May Fest in English) is the traditional German celebration of the arrival of spring. Maifest is still celebrated throughout Germany, and is one of mankind’s oldest traditions. The celebration of nature’s bright reawakening after winter’s cold darkness, this originally ancient pagan festival later took on Christian religious significance and is now a colorful, joyous part of German history and culture. “Cincinnati Mayfest,” hosted by the Germania Society of Cincinnati — at picturesque Germania Park — retains many of these traditional elements, making it the most authentic German Maifest in Cincinnati.
The custom of the maibaum (maypole) is believed to have begun in the tenth century, when villagers would erect a pole in the local square and decorate it with sausages, cakes, and multicolored ribbons, and later decorated more elaborately to show off the history and crafts of the town. Dancing around the maypole, medieval citizens believed, would bring good luck and wealth.
Its religious and superstitious aspects have long since disappeared, but Mayfest is still celebrated throughout Germany, where cities and villages are bedecked with colorful drapery and flowers. Some areas light bonfires, while others elect May kings, but most retain the maypole. The food is plentiful and beer and wine flow freely. What better way to say goodbye to winter’s chill and hello to the comforts of spring?
Maifest, in some ways similar to Oktoberfest, has become a popular celebration throughout the world. And Cincinnati is know for its strong and long Oktoberfest season: starting with Germania Oktoberfest at the end of August, reaching its apex with the grand Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, and ending with Cincinnati Donauschwaben Oktoberfest the first weekend of October. And, of course, we know there are several Oktoberfest celebrations in between, including Liberty Home Oktoberfest in Hamilton, Listermann Brewing Company’s “Craft Beer Only” Oktoberfest, Mainstrasse Village Oktoberfest, and Newport Oktoberfest. But you don’t have to wait until fall or even summer to enjoy a fun and traditional German celebration!
While there is no official “Cincinnati Maifest” (or Cincinnati Mayfest), over the years there have been various local organizations that have celebrated this event with varying degrees of success, including the Maifest in Covington Mainstrasse Village, put on by the Mainstrasse Village Association (Covington, KY). Unlike the Germania Mayfest which is held in the verdent setting of beautiful Germania Park — close to nature, as is traditional with most Maifests in small villages in Germany — the Covington Mayfest is an urban street festival, held in Covington’s Mainstrasse neighborhood.
The Germania Society of Cincinnati launched the first of what would become annual Maifest celebrations in 2012, and has been growing steadily ever since. And because of their focus on German tradition, Germania Maifest has been widely heralded as the region’s most authentic Mayfest. The Germania Maifest is located in Colerain Township, OH, but patrons attend from across Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Preble, Clermont, and Montgomery counties in Ohio; Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in Kentucky; as well as Dearborn, Ohio, and Switzerland counties in Indiana.
“Cincinnati Mayfest,” “Cincinnati May Fest,” Covington Mayfest, or Germania Maifest is not to be confused with the Cincinnati May Festival, an annual series of choral music events centered around the world-renowned May Festival Chorus, started in 1873. These performances are held at the Cincinnati Music Hall each May, and are supported by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In fact, Music Hall (completed in 1878) was built specifically for the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus and other German vocal groups and events (Saengerfests), as well as to hold other music events, opera performances, and exhibitions.
From its beginnings, the Cincinnati May Festival has also depended upon and fostered the talents of vocal and instrumental musicians living in the community. Local and regional choral groups have always shared the stage with the volunteers of the official May Festival Chorus, and young singers have been included to encourage the next generation of performers.
Greater Cincinnati has a rich German heritage. And the Germania Society is committed to celebrating that legacy through a number of programs and events throughout the year. Our main events include Germania Oktoberfest, Germania Christkindlmarkt, and our youngest, fastest-growing event, Germania Maifest — as well as our twice annual Volksmarch, the Germania Karneval program, and various entertainment and cultural events throughout the year.
So join us every May for this family-friendly festival, and you’ll see why we have become the “Cincinnati Mayfest.” Or Maifest. Or May Fest. However you want to spell it, it means great German tradition and fun! Prost!