According to key statistics from the most recent US Census, more than 40 million Americans claim to have German ancestry. That comes as no surprise, considering the rich history of German Americans in the US and the significant contributions they’ve made to the country. To commemorate German American Heritage Month, let’s look at some ways individuals and groups are dedicated to preserving German American traditions and culture:
- German American Organizations
Across the US, there are clubs and organizations founded with the interest of celebrating and continuing German culture. These groups arrange and coordinate events, classes, and meetings for the German American community and those interested in German culture. The oldest of these organizations is The German Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1764, when Pennsylvania was still a colony! This organization currently boasts the largest private collection of German books and publications.
If you live in an area that has an active German American community, undoubtedly you’ve heard of Oktoberfest. Many US cities celebrate Oktoberfest during the time folk festivals are happening in Germany, which is usually between mid-September to early October. The first Oktoberfest in the US happened in 1961 in Wisconsin, but the largest Oktoberfest is held in Cincinnati, Ohio. It occurs over four days in September, during which time festivalgoers enjoy strolling through a Bavarian-style village and sampling the best German food and drinks.
German American heritage is also preserved behind the walls of historical museums and cultural centers in various parts of the US. During a visit to one of these museums, such as the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA, you can find products, art, documents, and even oral recordings about the experiences of German immigrants in America and their continuing contributions to society.
- German Cuisine
Most states are home to more than one popular restaurant or bakery serving up delectable German delights like bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and Bavarian cream puffs. While these establishments fill your bellies with authentic German food, they also ensure that the culinary legacy of German Americans is preserved for many (hungry) generations to come.
- Culture and Language Classes
While not as popular as Spanish, the German language is still one of the top three languages students choose to study in high school, with many people also choosing to learn German outside of school. As noted above, German American organizations are dedicated to sharing their cultural heritage with the larger community. One way they do this is to offer language and culture classes or provide college scholarships to students who want to major in German language and culture.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano