When you are visiting Bavaria during Christmas and New Year, be prepared to hear shooting guns. But don't worry, it is actually the sound of celebration—welcoming the Christkind who brings gifts for kids. Salutes usually begin a week before Christmas Eve. The men, who are responsible for all that sound, are called marksmen and they use black powder guns, known as Handböller. These are hand-held, short-barreled saluting guns. On Christmas Eve, the sound gets really loud between 11.30 and midnight. Large saluting guns shoot right after the church bells remind everybody it is time for a mass. This unique tradition dates back to 1666, but it is said to be even older. The best place to witness this old tradition is in Berchtesgaden village.
On New Year's Eve, the story is quite similar. Numerous shooting clubs together with thousands of locals with firecrackers and fireworks create real canonade, especially closer to midnight.