About an hour’s journey southwest of Toronto in the state of Ontario, Kitchener (twinned with its’ close neighbouring city of Waterloo University) has some deep German roots.
In 1833 it was actually named Berlin after the German capital and it became the unofficial capital for Germans in Canada. Anti-German movements during the First World War forced a referendum - boycotted by many local residents - but in the end successful in 1916, achieving a name change from ‘Berlin’ to ‘Kitchener’ in honour of the popular British Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener. In the 1990s there was a move to revert to the former ‘Berlin’ title but this initiative lacked sufficient support.
The German roots are now however celebrated every year with a hearty nine-day German Beer festival - Oktoberfest Canada. The festival attracts around 700,000 visitors from all over the world, starting on the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving and ending on the following Sunday. ‘Oktoberfest Canada’ combines many of the Bavarian traditions with those of the ‘New world’ such as the highlight of the festival which is the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the many festival halls where you can dance to Bavarian music.
The equally traditional character "Onkel Hans" (see photo) has become the mascot for the folk festival and the German beer festival motto “Gemütlichkeit” (coziness) gives a clear sense of the seasonal spirit!
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