Schützenfest have a long tradition in Germany. The origin lies in the Middle Ages, when the cities wanted to protect themselves against looters. The defenders came together in associations, which were built up similarly to a citizen’s militia. In the year 924 King Heinrich I enacted a law, which declared the citizen defences to be part of the city defences. So that the members were optimally prepared, different exercises and patterns were accomplished. In this context, festivities were also organised to strengthen the self-confidence of the militias and to present the associations to the public. Over the years, the military importance has decreased, but the tradition of shooting festivals has been preserved.
Regional differences at the shooting festivals
The customs of the Schützenfeste differ from country to country. Especially in Lower Saxony and Bavaria, the folk festivals are regularly held on a large scale. But the tradition is also kept alive on the Middle Rhine, the Lower Rhine and in Westphalia. As a rule, the focus is on a shooting competition in which a shooting king is chosen. The king is in office until the next Schützenfest. The tournament is accompanied by a supporting programme that can last a day, several days or even a week. Usually there is a party tent, a ballroom is rented or a complete fairground is filled with attractions. A festive procession is often the prelude. The reigning king of marksmen is picked up by his court in the morning and taken to the marksmen’s square. The members position themselves in the garden or on the street in front of the house and greet the king of marksmen with music.