Heidelberg Summer Day Parade
On the fourth Sunday after Mardi Gras, or Fasching as it is known in the region, the people of Heidelberg celebrate the coming of warmer weather, with a traditional Summer Day Parade headed by a woman dressed as Liselotte, one of Heidelberg’s most famous residents.
Throughout Germany, traditional celebrations are held as winter gives way to spring. Many children participate in the Heidelberg Summer Day Parade carrying poles decorated with pretzels, empty egg shells, and ribbons.
This part of the celebration is said to reflect at time when, at the end of winter, and before the earliest spring crops came in, the children of the town would go around begging for food. It is a considerably happier occasion now!
Liselotte, Heidelberg’s favourite princess
Elisabeth Charlotte, princess of the Palatinate, was born in 1652 in Heidelberg, and was the grandchild of Friedrich V and Elizabeth Stuart. She grew up in the castle, and when she was a young woman, married King Louis XIV’s brother, becoming the Duchess of Orleans. She did not love the French court, and wrote many hilarious and scathing letters about it to her German friends and family, which is why we know so much about her.
She frequently reminisced about her childhood in Heidelberg, and mentions the Summer Day Parade in her letters specifically. Every year, a woman dresses as Liselotte (her nickname), and leads the Summer Day Parade in her honour.
Songs and performances
Local groups march in the parade, including brass brands and children’s groups. Many are dressed in yellow and black, the colours of the state of Baden-Württemberg. The parade ends at Marktplatz in the old town, with performances by local musicians and dance groups. Sweet yeasted pretzels are handed out, as well as branches of fir and heather, representing the survival of nature through the winter.
Getting to Heidelberg
Heidelberg is an easy one-hour train journey from either Frankfurt or Stuttgart. It is recommended to use public transport, but if you’re coming by car, be sure to park well outside the old town. Even though the parade moves down the already pedestrianised high street, the crowds means getting to nearby car parks can be a challenge.
It is well worth arriving in the morning to visit the ruins of one of the most famous castles in Germany, easily accessible from the old town via a funicular railway. For more information about the parade, visit the Heidelberg Marketing website.