Marksmanship in Germany
In many regions, marksmanship is an important and vibrant part of the regional or local identity. It incorporates many customs and traditions, which manifest themselves in different ways. In the course of their history, marksmen’s associations have repeatedly reacted to changes in the underlying social conditions and become greatly differentiated. These range from the typically Christian-oriented brotherhoods of North Rhine-Westphalia, through the profane customs of Eastern Germany and the bourgeois-republican societies of the former free and hanseatic cities, to the cheerful traditions of the Southern German brotherhoods. Today, the old tradition is usually practised within the framework of membership in an association by people of all ages and genders, without regard to religious confession, sexual orientation, origin or disabilities. There are many measures for transmitting the traditions, including different forms of youth work and the active fostering of regional and inter-European connections.
The best known expression of the marksmen’s associations is the marksmen's festival, which is celebrated once a year, with customs differing according to the local tradition. In the focus of this festival is often the champion marksman or markswoman, who are determined by the kingbird shooting. In honour of the "Schützenkönig" or "Schützenkönigin" pageants and parades take place. The marksmen and markswomen of a society or association appear in traditional dress, presenting a badge and a banner of the society, which are also accompanied by different customs. Throughout the year, the marksmen’s associations shape thw social and cultural community life, particularly in smaller communities, so that the tradition of marksmanship is vivid and evident over the entire year.
In many regions, the origins of the marksmen’s associations date back to the Middle Ages. In the Rhine-Flemish-Westphalian region, the citizens themselves were responsible for protecting their respective city or community at that time. After these duties were transferred to the state, this function of the marksmen’s associations vanished. Today, this is expressed in particular symbolic customs, such as parades with wooden muskets or the tradition of shooting birds.
Europäische Gemeinschaft Historischer Schützen
Secretary-general Peter-Olaf Hoffmann
Deutscher Schützenbund e.V.