The Psychology of Celebration: Why we are drawn to big parties

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Find belonging. A clear argument in favor of a major event. (Image: Joey Thompson on Unsplash)

The corona pandemic with social distancing and the resulting psychological difficulties have shown how important social interaction is. However, while some of us just miss the quiet coffee with good friends, others long for the really great experiences. The phenomenon of mass events and the special attraction of festivals and folk festivals show that psychologically there are good reasons to look for the crowd.

What attracts crowds?

A question that not only social psychologists ask themselves again and again deals with the motives of those people who appreciate mass events. What the parish fair in the village is to children later in life, the XXL festival. Events such as Rock am Ring, the Cannstatter Wasen and the Bremer Freimarkt attract countless visitors every year.

The statistics shows that the popularity of the Munich Oktoberfest has increased slightly over the decades. While Munich had around 5.1 million visitors in 1980, in 2019 there were 6.3 million people from all over the world. Sometimes they travel long distances to experience the atmosphere of the folk festival – and accept comparatively adverse conditions on site, such as overcrowded tents, loud volumes and long waiting times.

Despite the drawbacks that large folk festivals and festivals bring, they remain attractive. Four aspects help in finding the reasons:

1. Freedom through anonymity

A strong argument for life in the big city is the increased anonymity. Many people do not like to live in small towns in the country because they do not want to accept the strong focus on the individual. Large folk festivals offer a similar contrast to small celebrations. Here people can get lost in the crowd and do not have to fear being judged or observed by others.

Anyone who often has the feeling of being different in the rest of their lives can quickly become part of the homogeneous crowd at folk festivals. On many occasions, this already results from traditional customs such as certain clothing. At the Oktoberfest and the Wasen, women wear their Dirndl high necked or revealing, gentlemen come in leather pants and shirts. Getting rid of everyday clothing and slipping into a new role significantly increases the effect of anonymity.

It is obvious that anonymity can also have its pitfalls. It is not for nothing that police stations are usually well manned and still overloaded during large mass events. Much like online hatred, protecting the crowd as well as the feeling of belonging to a certain group can have negative consequences.

2. Self-expression and self-affirmation

In contrast to the first argument, there is the motivation of people to take the opportunity to present themselves at folk festivals and festivals and to have their own self-worth confirmed in social interaction. Beautiful clothes, unusual hairstyles and elaborate make-up are therefore not infrequently part of the preparations for a holiday.

In meeting potential partners, whether romantic or purely physical, people find the opportunity to escape unpleasant feelings. Precisely because the crowd is so huge at major events, the choice seems almost infinite. The chances of successful flirting and socializing increases. Quite a few people go to festivals with this aspect in mind and look for an option to compensate for a lack of self-affirmation.

3. Extreme without evaluation

Social norms and values ​​can definitely have a restrictive character in everyday life. Above all, excessive or excessive behavior is rarely welcomed in the ordinary context. This relates to volume as well as wild dancing, high alcohol consumption or falling inhibitions in contact with others.

One of the most important reasons for attending the festival can be one of the most important reasons for allowing oneself to behave in an extreme way without fear of being judged by others or even being excluded from the community. This may seem daunting to viewers of folk festival documentaries, but it often means a special feeling of freedom for people in the crowd.

4. Collective experiences and a sense of community

Feelings of loneliness have not only been a problem since Corona. Already showed in the years before the pandemic official numbersthat more and more people deal with this topic and suffer from subjectively perceived loneliness. In this regard, folk festivals and festivals make their visitors a very special offer: They enable direct access to a group without having to get to know each other or adapt the individual to their dynamics.

Even outsiders find themselves in the midst of the social hustle and bustle within a very short time at folk festivals. Community no longer determines pure sympathy, but the often ritual-like framework. From toasts to dances to certain music and regular toasting, mass events bring people together regardless of whether they would like each other in real life. Many folk festivals can at least temporarily alleviate a high level of suffering caused by loneliness.

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