Thumb War Taken to the Next Level: “Fingerhakeln” in the Alps


“One, two, three, four, I declare thumb war.”  We can all recall that tune and the silly (but fun!) game that’s associated with it. It’s the infamous thumb wrestling activity that kids play for hours to kill time (at least in my day and age, it may be outdated by now.) The long and tedious thumb war sessions usually ended around the time your thumbs cramped up and you could no longer feel your fingers.

FingerhakelnNow, when you take that simple game and you add a couple of mountains, folks in leather trousers, a large wooden table and a small leather band, you will arrive at the scene of an organized and celebrated sport called Fingerhakeln in the Alpine region (most common in Bavaria, Southern Germany.) In case you missed it, this traditional Fingerhakeln championship event occurred this past weekend, August 15th  in Garmisch-Patenkirchen, a city in Bavaria.

The way it works is two folks in traditional leather suits (the kind you would find at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich) sit across from one another at a large wooden table. Both lock their middle fingers into a leather ribbon and essentially try to pull their opponent across and over the table. (FYI: there is an expression in the German language that’s the equivalent to “taking someone to the cleaners” and that originated at this popular sport event – it would be translated to “pulling someone across the table.”)

I guess every country has its weird traditions. The U.S. is certainly not one to judge, given its annual 4th of July “stuff your face with hot dogs” competition , a.k.a. “IFOCE Nathan’s International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

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