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Handbook for Fahnenträger by Josef Götz



Handbuch für den Fähnrich


Dear flag bearer, this handbook will be helpful and give you advice about how to handle a Vereinsfahne. It also contains information about the “4 Ws”, who – how – where – what. As a rule the flag bearer is trained by his predecessor in the art of flag bearing. In spite of this one cannot always recall the knowledge that has been passed along. Much can, for various reasons, not be passed on, or some facts might not have been known in the club to begin with.

How does one become a flag bearer?

He is elected by the club's members and that's it! That means that he must bring the determination and personality to carry out the duties of the office with him. He must make the knowledge of the basic rules a part of himself. There are certain rules for the optimal presentation of our flag. A Vereins flag is a noble piece of cloth, that accompanies the club for generations. Therefore we must treat our Vereins flag as an essential part of our club, a symbol for our Brauchtum (tradition+) and as an expression of solidarity with homeland. Basically the handling of the flag, care and storage all are the responsibilities of the flag bearer.

The colors of the flag are attached to various virtues. So the royal color yellow gold stands for wisdom, belief and justice. White speaks for piousness and purity, while red stands for magnanimity and bravery. Blue stands for strength, love of Fatherland and faithfulness. These colors later turned into political symbols. So the Prussians and the Protestant states chose the color blue. The Catholic states (such as Austria) chose white, England red and Russia dark green. It's interesting that light blue (white and blue) the Bavarian colors, stand color-wise between the Austrians and the Prussians.

As a sign of connection to God and the Patron Saint the Heiligenbanner (holy banner) was created as the first Bildfahne (flag with picture). In the 10th century Heinrich von Oesterreich fought under the picture of the Archangel Michael. The guild flags were the result Wehrverfassung in the states and usually the guild patron saint.

The meaning that the flags possessed was shown, last but not least, in the inscription. So the Protestants during the War of Beliefs, chose the inscription Pro libertate et religione (for freedom and denomination), while the Catholic side with Tilly fought for Church and Kingdom (Pro ecclesia et imperio). The flag developed from being purely a sign of orientation to being a symbol of Honor and Loyalty.

Flag bearers were special people, mostly officers. The care of the flag became duty, the conquering of the flag during battle would be a dishonor. The flag became holy. Even today they are blessed in the church and given a special place. Often the army Captain would grab the flag when he thought the battle was lost in an attempt to turn the tide. The importance of a flag is found also today in the “Fahnenneid” of recruits (Gelöbnis)” “Ich gelobe, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland treu zu deinen und das Recht und die Freiheit des Deutschen Volkestapfer zu verteidigen” ( “I promise to loyally serve the Republic of Germany and to bravely protect the rights and freedom of the German people”.)

We think of the flag when we sing the Bayernhymne, in the second verse “ Dass mit Deutschlands Bruderstämmen einig uns ein jeder schau, und den alten Ruhm bewahre, unser  Banner weiß und blau.” And so the circle turns to us: Trachtenvereinen. The flag is an expression of our connection with the Christian beliefs, our homeland and the Bavarian Tradition.

Tradition, handling and care

The Vereins flag is the pride of every Verein (club). It is blessed in front of God and should be handled with care and honor. The flag in the Verein, in Bavarian society, and in Brauchtum is a special Kulturgut. Therefore it is important above all to honor and preserve the old flag. A Vereins flag accompanies the members to many events, fests, and special occasions. It is part of our life, death and mourning. In the final end it is also lowered over our grave. The flag not only has a

outward presence, it also shows the inner being of those who stand behind it. In the Benedictiunale, the Official Book of the Church for Blessing and Dedication, it says regarding the blessing of the flag, “Flag are signs of Community. The blessing is not just of an inanimate object, but the blessing of the people who have joined together because they have a common Ideal or a mutual duty. The Fahnenträger presents not just the flag, but he presents it in a way that represents his Verein. It has been said, “the manner in which the Fahnenträger proceeds with the flag, defines the entire Verein”.

The flag should be carried with pride and worthiness. It requires therefore, a corresponding handling and care. The flag is a very special traditional object. It writes the Verein history from the very moment that it is handed over to the Verein. Earlier the honor of Fahnenträger had greater value than today. But today as in the past it is a special office and a particular responsibility to carry and care for the flag.

Storage, Transport and Care

These three points are key to the flag lasting a long time and remaining beautiful. The flag is a piece of cloth that has been artistically transformed. It must be taken care of as such.

1. Storage of the Flag

The storage of the flag is most successful if it is hanging in a flag cabinet in a dry room. The cabinet should not be on an outer wall. This could cause moisture problems which would damage the fabric. Condensation from moist air between the outer wall and the cabinet would be absorbed by the flag material and cause mold and spots, and the material would become brittle. That would be the death of any flag. The cabinet should be large enough for the flag to hang free, air should circulate. Any air holes should be covered with fine screen to keep insects or rodents out. A linen cloth lain over the flag will keep it from getting dusty. If more than one flag are in the same cabinet there should be distance between them. If the flag cabinet has a glass front care should be taken that the sun does not shine on the flag. Direct UV light is damaging for any cloth. In this way the colors will keep for generations. Just as damaging is tobacco smoke. Nicotine will damage all cloth. It's very important that if the flag gets damp in the Winter months that it first dries at room temperature before returning it to the cabinet. Mold or mildew spots can be removed, but when the flag is exposed to moisture the spots will reappear in the same areas. The flag should never be dried in the furnace room. Never use a fan or steam cleaner. Steaming or ironing will also damage it. A flag is made of four layers of fabric, velvet or silk on the outside and some material between the outer layers, these layers react differently to moisture and heat. It can take a week or longer to dry a flag that has become damp.

The same applies to Fahnenbänder which are also valuable. If the flag gets a dirt spot it should never be rubbed with a paper towel or any similar material. If the spot cannot be removed with a clothing brush, it is advisable to take the flag to the flag maker for cleaning.

2. Transporting the Flag

How should the flag be properly transported. Here is where the biggest mistakes are made. The worst mistake would be to roll the flag together with the Fahnenbänder around the pole and shove it in a black bag. Worse yet the bottom part of the pole might be shoved in the bag with it. The gold embroidery is rough and is damaged when the flag is rolled up. With this kind of treatment the flag will be damaged. For transporting, a flag is not rolled, but folded in the following manner. Two people lift the flag and lay (the pole) on one shoulder, the transport cover is pulled over it. Fold up the lower ends a hand width from the pole, then lay the middle of the whole package over the pole. Finished!

This is done faster than rolling and is the best way to transport the flag. This does require two people, but the Fahnenträger has his assistant for this. The Fahnenbänder are removed before the folding process and are just placed together for transport. The transport cover can be made of plastic or linen.

3. Caring for the Fahne

A flag should be refreshed about every 25 years. Refreshing means cosmetically treating, smoothing, cleaning the other surfaces, possibly taking it apart and sewing it together again. This is not considered a restoration. Much damage can occur to the flag when flags are placed to close together in flag stands. It can happen that a flag is damaged by the sharp Spitze of another flag as it is placed in the stand. A Fahnenträger with foresight would avoid such accidents. It can also become a problem if the flag stand is placed out of doors in front of the tent. If the ground is soft from too much rain, it could happen that the whole flag stand would tip over. It is recommended, that if the flag is no longer needed after the parade, it should be made ready for transporting again. If the flag is placed on a stage or wall as a decoration, nails should never be used. A better solution would be feather clamps.

4. Fähnrich and Assistant

Why 2 Fahnen assistants?

Time and again it is brought up that the Fähnenträger should carry the flag in the parade or up to  the church altar by himself. We urgently advise against this. Most Verein flags are heavy velvet. It has often happened that the Fahenträger fainted while carrying the flag, in this case another Fahnenträger would have to try to hold his own flag while trying to catch the flag of the Fahnenträger who has fainted, to avoid damage to persons or flags. For this reason a girl or  woman should never be a flag assistant.

How should a sash be worn?

The sashes are a visible sign, that the person wearing it is a part of the flag delegation. As a rule, sashes are two colors, one side of which is white (exceptions are possible). The white side of the sash is placed on the shoulders. This is the tradition. The (white side of the ) sash is worn out on the assistants. Whether the Fähnrich wears the sash over the right or left shoulder is basically his choice. Often this is determined by the way the sash has been constructed. The Tradition handed down is that the Fähnrich wears the sash over the right shoulder. The reason for this is that the white color should go from the heart side of the body outward since the color white symbolizes piousness, purity, and constancy.

Why the hat cord/tassel?

If a man enters a church or a sacred place he removes his hat as a sign of reverence to God. The same should be done, if possible, when eating at table. So that the flag delegation is not hindered in their duties, they wear a Hutschnur (cord with tassel) on their hats. The wearing of the Hutschnur gives the Fähnrich and his assistants permission to leave their hats on. The acorns on the ends of the cord lay on the hat brim or hang off the back side of the hat.

The color of the cord is determined by the color of the sash. If it is an occasion of mourning, black would be worn. If one wants to prevent the ends of the cord from slipping sideways or backwards, one would lay the cord at the back of the hat brim, bring the cord to the front of the hat, cross the ends over and lay them on the brim. If it happens that the Fahnenträger and assistants are separated from their flags in the church, then they should remove their hats.

5. Fahnen decoration, Fahnenbänder, Fahnenspitze


This includes the decoration of the Fahnenspitze (top point). When a new or restored flag is blessed it is a nice tradition to carry the flag in to the church on frame that is decorated with flowers and boxwood. For normal occasions it is not necessary to decorate the Spitze because the flag itself is the most important thing. For occasions of mourning the Sptize is covered with a black cloth.


The Totenband (in memory of members who have passed away) is always on the flag. In many clubs the Totenband and Fahnenmutter Band standard. Depending on the occasion, other Fahnebänder are added, for example at a Gaufest the Bänder of the active Deandl oder Buam, the Patenverein, Erinnerungsbänder, (souvenir of a Gaufest) etc. The final decision, as to which Bänder are added, is up to the flag bearer.

Fahnenspitze – decorated or covered?

The decorating of the Fahnenspitze sets the tone for the occasion. At a Vereinsgründungsfest (club anniversary) with church service, on Corpus Christi Day or at a Gaufest, a flower decoration on the Fahnenspitze is an expression of the traditional worthiness. At normal events, Verein events or memorials the decoration isn't necessary. For funerals or burials the Fahnenspitze is covered with a black cloth cover.

6. Fahne presentation, Fahne lowering

When the Bavarian anthem or national anthem is played or when there is a Fahnengruß (flags greet each other) the flag is presented, that means either held out a little or stand at attention. In a church service during communion, as soon as the priest takes the Host (bread) in his hand the flag is lowered. If there is enough room, it is lowered as far the arm can reach out. The end of the flagpole is braced against the foot. Pay attention to burning candles on the altar. The flag is lowered during the blessing with the “Monstranz” at graveside, when remembering departed members, and immediately when “Alte Kamerad” is played.

7. New Flag, F ahnenweihe (flag blessing)

The following points are for guidance:

•The decision is made by the members to have a flag made.

•Design and inscription is determined.

•Estimates for cost of having the flag made are obtained from flag makers.

•The Totenband is usually donated by the community.

•Selection of Fahnenbänder. (Totenband, Fahnenmutterband, etc)

•Send invitations.

•Choose gifts for guests

•Raise funds by donations or (erlöse) savings from events?

•Select the Fahnenmutter and Fahnenbräute.

•Search for a Patenverein

•Organize the Patenbitten (requesting a Verein to be your Pate, sponsor)

•Organize the Fahneweihe event.

•Prologe erstellen

•Acquire the flag rack/stand/frame.

•Discuss the church service with the priest/pastor.

After the blessing in the church comes the so-called Fahnenkuss (flag kiss), with the old Vereinsfahnen, if there is one, and then with the flag of the Patenverein.

8. Public Events

Memorial Service or Memorial Day:

Flag decoration and Fahnenbänder

For a memorial service or Memorial Day the Fahnenspitze is covered in black. The Totenband would always be hung on the flag. Whether or not the Band der Fahnenmutter or Patenverein is hung is determined by the occasion or the decision of the Fahnenträger.

Memorial Day with church procession:

The use of the flag in this situation varies from region to region. Usually this is led by a military or veterans organization. When available, a band leads the organizations to the church.  These are the commands for a parade of organizations to church or a war memorial:

Church procession:

Aufstellung zum Kirchenzug (line up for the church procession)

Abmarsch Kirchenzug (procession to the church begin marching)

After the church service:

Aufstellung zum Trauermarsch  (form up for the mourning march)

Abmarsch Trauerzug (being mourning march)

At the war memorial during the laying of the wreath:

Senkt die Fahnen (lower the flags) the band plays “Alten Kameraden” (old comrades)

Erstellt euch (the flags are returned to vertical position)

Abmarsch (march!)

Dismissing the procession after the event

Fahnen hervortreten (flags step forward)

Zur Gruss der Fahnen Hut ab! (hats off to greet the flag)

The band plays a march. The leader of the procession thanks all who participated.

Fahnen zurücktreten (flags retreat/step back)

Auflösung (disperse)

9. Religious/Church Events

Flag decoration, Fahnenbänder

(see number 5)

Fest Church Services, Corpus Christi Day, the Flag at the altar, or in the Kirchenschiff

The flag delegation enters the church, goes up to the altar area, the Fähnrich dips the flag once and goes to the designated place with his assistants. There usually is a designated place for the flag delegation in the church. If there is not enough room, it is possible the Fähnrich might be asked to stand in the altar area without his assistants. I recommend declining this request. (see point 4). On entering or exiting the church it is the duty of the Fahnenbegleiter (those  accompanying the flag) to pay attention to the flag and the Fahnenbänder. If the Fähnrich has to lower the flag to get through the entrance door, the assistants accompanying him should hold up the flag and Bände so they don't drag on the floor.

During the service it is recommended to place a small piece of leather or similar material under the flag pole so the pole doesn't slip when the flag is lowered during the “transsubstantiation”. Experienced Fähnriche also support the flag pole with their foot. During the Blessing the flag is “presented”. Upon leaving the church the flag is lowered one time in front of the altar.

10. Funerals:

Flag decoration, Fahnenbänder -

(see point 5)

From the church to the cemetery and Aussegnungshalle

the usual order for the procession:

• Bearer of the Cross

• Priest/Pastor with assistants

• Family members

• Vereinsfahne with Vereinsmitgliedern (club members with flag)

• Other flags with Vereinsmitgliedern

• Other mourners

From the Aussegnungshalle to the gravesite

• Bearer of the Cross

• Flag delegation of military or veterans (optional)

• Flag delegations of the Vereine (optional)

• Flag delegation of the Verein in which the person was a member

• Minister with Grabkreuz (grave cross)

• Pastor

• Casket carried or otherwise transported

• Relatives

• Other mourners

Laying of the wreath, honors:

The flag is lowered:

• as the casket is lowered

• as a wreath is laid on the grave

• when the music plays “Alte Kameraden”

• as the last honor, the flag is lowered 3 times

As long as members of the Verein remain at the grave the flag delegation should also remain.

11. Fahnenzubehör (Flag Accessories):

It is recommended to use a Kreuzgurt (shoulder harness) when carrying the flag to distribute the weight on both shoulders. There are various methods to help with Fahnenschwingen (swinging the flag). It is advisable to ask other experienced flag bearers. The flag makers also have various aids available. It is strongly recommended, (as described in point 2) that you have a covering for transporting the flag. Also it is recommended to have a transport sack made as well as a Gewindeschutzkappe (festoon protective cap) for the flag pole and a small piece of leather to put under the pole on smooth surfaces. A cover to protect the flag from rain that is large enough to cover the flag and the Bände. Expense should not be spared in acquiring flag accessories since good quality of the accessories will help the Fähnrich and preserve the flag.


This handbook should serve as a guideline, especially concerning a Vereins own event. Otherwise one should observe the traditions of the host Verein.

“ Die Sitt und Tracht der Alten wollen wir erhalten, Treu dem guten alten Brauch”

“We want to uphold the old traditions, True to the good old customs”

Published: Isargau – Bayerische Heimat – und Volkstrachtenvereine Sitz München e.V.


Promoted by the Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München Written in 2007 by Gaukassenprüfer (auditor) Josef Götz, with excerpts from the Fähnrich seminar in April 2006 together with Herr Hölzl (Fahnenstickerei Fa. Eibl)

Translated by Carolyn Marquardt


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