No, no one sneezed. Gemütlichkeit is an old German word often used to mean a cozy atmosphere and a relaxed state of mind. While many people often remember that Missouri was once full of French immigrants, it was also home to a very large German population. Outside of St. Louis, many German immigrants founded tiny farming communities based centrally around a Catholic church. These Catholic parishes often held festivals at the end of harvest season where they would make deals, gorge on food and drink, enjoy lively entertainment, show off their wares, and mark the end of summer. Think of it as the summer version of the Christkindlmarkt or Christmas markets I mentioned last winter.

Saint Paul Picnic

Embracing the Gemütlichkeit

Over time, parishes turned into cities and the children of farmers took jobs outside of the family business and the times changed. One thing that has remained a constant has been the festivals. These days we call them “picnics” after each parish or town and churches alternate weekends so you can visit picnics all through the summer and fall. Picnics are held on Sundays after church and in the shadow of the church, a reminder of the old communities.

Saint Paul Picnic

St. Paul Church

In my area, the word Gemütlichkeit started to come up in the late 80s and early 90s. Since the picnics reminded us of a different time, what better way to honor them than with a word that invoked our shared heritage? Picnics embrace the best of Gemütlichkeit- we relax with those close and familiar with us at a fair we have grown to love year after year.

Saint Paul Picnic

St. Paul Church

Labor Day weekend I spent some time at one of the parish picnics in St. Paul, Missouri. The St. Paul Picnic is the picnic that marks the transition from summer to fall in the area and this year’s weather had clearly gotten the memo; we had been at over 100 degrees the day before and now it was a breezy day in the 70s just in time for the picnic.

Saint Paul Picnic

Quilt Raffle

The St. Paul picnic is a place for students to catch up with each other before college starts up for good, a place for kids who have moved away to come home for a visit, and a place to have fun. The picnics here embrace the old and the new. It’s quite common to see a quilt raffle featuring handmade quilts right across the way from poker and just a ways down from a bounce house for the kids. The country store might include jams and jellies but kids pass that up for the chance to get a sno-cone down the way.

Saint Paul Picnic

Bounce houses for the kids

Picnics also use beer and music to embrace the Gemütlichkeit feeling. There’s often live music and plenty to drink while you’re there. The food is another ever-popular feature. Summer picnics feature roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, tea, corn, green beans, and homemade cherry pies. Fall picnics feature turkey and sausage, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and homemade pumpkin pies.

Saint Paul Picnic

The crowds eating a St. Paul picnic dinner

There’s a reason so many non-Catholics, non-residents, and non-Germans travel to the more rural areas of town to get picnic food. I’m definitely one of them. As a kid I’d visit the Flint Hill picnic, the Josephville picnic, and the St. Paul picnic eating food, spending quarters on sno-cones and the grab bag, and searching for friends in the crowd. There’s a feeling of community and peace at these events not to mention completely full bellies. If you’re ever in the St. Louis area on a Sunday, chances are you can find a picnic with plenty of Gemütlichkeit.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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  • Clarence

    I go to the St. Paul picnic every time I get the chance. It is a great place to go for old fashioned fun. Thanks for the post!