'Fingerhakeln': Germany Has a Lesser-Known Festival

Finger wrestling sounds like a surefire way to put your digit out of joint
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2024 12:29 PM CDT
Germany's Weird Tradition: Finger Wrestling
A competitor warms up for his finger-wrestling bout in Bernbeuren, Germany, on Sunday. Competitors battled for the title in this traditional rural sport where the winner has to pull his opponent over a marked line on the table.   (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Despite the threat of dislocated fingers and strained muscles, more than 150 Bavarian men came together to compete in Germany's unique national championship of "Fingerhakeln," or finger wrestling. The "finger wrestlers" met in a big beer tent in the small southern village of Bernbeuren, reports the AP. Around 1,000 visitors cheered on the all-male contestants as they gulped down their national beer and world-famous German sausages while live Bavarian music filled the air. Finger wrestling, a well-known competitive sport in Germany's Alpine region and neighboring Austria, originated as a way to settle disputes.

In each round, two competitors sit on opposite sides of a solid table and each hooks one finger—usually the middle finger—through opposite sides of a small leather loop. As soon as a referee signals the start, a contestant tries to pull the other across the table swiftly. The whole thing usually lasts a few seconds, and digits put out of their joints are common. The winner moves to the next round.

"This tradition has been popular for a very long time in beerhouses and pubs across the region," said Marie-Therese Eierstock, the head of the Fingerhakler Gau Auerberg association, which was founded in 1961 and organized this year's championship. Customarily, only men are allowed to participate in finger-wrestling competitions. At this past weekend's tournament, the youngest competitor was 15 years old and the oldest 70. (More fingers stories.)

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