A Conversation for National Celebrations

Germany - douze points

Post 1

Trillian's child

According to the calendar on my desk the following are the official Bank Holidays in Germany:

The rules for shops opening are still very strict in Germany and on these days you will __not__ be able to buy anything.

Germany is divided up into 16 States, and those with a higher Catholic population (predominantly Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in the South) have more days than others.

1 Jan - New Year's Day
6 Jan - Three Kings - Heilige Drei Könige (Epiphany is only mentioned in Church circles) This holiday only celebrated in certain parts of the country.
April: Good Friday and Easter Monday
1 May - May Bank Holiday (Also known as "Tag der Arbeit" - day of work, paradoxically)
June - Ascension Day + Whit Monday + Corpus Christi (This one not everywhere)
3 October - since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 or was it 1990 - this day has been officially the Day of German Reunion. It used to be 17 June before there was a reunion. People still haven't got used to this day being a holiday.
31 October - Reformation Day - this is the day the Protestant Churches have for themselves. Also only in some States.
1 November - All Saints

Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are usually only half days. The shops certainly shut at lunch time on these days, so watch it if you are buying up to feed 12 over the holidays.

If Christmas and New Year fall on a weekend, hard cheese - you don't get the extra Monday.

The UNOFFICIAL holidays in Germany are also quite numerous.

First and foremost - Fasching/Fastnacht/Karnival

In Catholic areas, the tradition of living it up before Lent and using up everything in the cupboard is really big. You party from the Thursday before Shrove Tuesday through to midnight on the Tuesday without sobering up. It is accepted in Cologne (the epizentrum of this not-to-be-underestimated four-day party marathon) that you can sleep with anyone during this time, too, even if you're married to someone else. Everybody does it. They claim.

There are many many traditions connected with this festival. In variations all over the South of Germany you have a pseudo-serious "Elfer-Rat" which is a group of 11 honourable (and usually quite important) men in silly hats who organise meetings and parties and processions.

The number "11" has a lot of significance, too, and all parties and events start at "20.11" or "19.11" - always 11 minutes past the hour.
If a Carnival Club (all towns and villages have them) has a jubilee to celebrate, it is the 11th or the 10 x 11th or so.

Each town has its procession, and the biggest ones are televised - the Monday before Shrove Tuesday is given up almost entirely to them - this day is known as Rosenmontag.

In Cologne, Düsseldorf and surrounding cities , everything is shut. No one would go to work anyway.

There are, of course, people who don't like it. This is a recent phenomenon which - in my opinion - comes from the fact that nowadays you can buy what you want when you want and you don't keep to the rules of Lent where you have to fast for days on end (and, I think, remain celebate) As Lent is no longer kept, there is no need to go flat out before it.

Another tradition is the "Starkbier" - a very potent beer brewed by the monks at this time for use during Lent when they, particularly, are not allowed to eat. They made up for the calories by drinking this darker, richer beer.

Ash Wednesday, it is traditional to eat salted herrings - as everyone has a hangover.

In fact this phenomenon Fasching/Carnival requires an entry of its own and I will now go on to describe what else goes on during the year in Germany.


St Martin and St Nikolaus

St Martin is on 11 November. The story of St Martin is told to the children and often acted out. The villages have processions and bonfires and the children carry the lanterns they have made at school or kindergarten and sing traditional songs. The story goes that St Martin was a soldier and a nobleman (in Tours, France) and while riding home from battle one day, saw a beggar who was freezing because it was winter. He had a big thick cape on and with his sword cut the cape in half and gave half to the beggar, who, like in similar legends, turns out to have been Christ in disguise.

Each village has its own traditions - we have a real horse, which always leaves its mark for the children to tread in - and every child gets a bun as a present. There is sometimes mulled wine or coffee for the parents.

St Nikolaus (of Byzance, I think) was a Bishop according to the legend told here. In fact this is a mixture of several Saints, and the story is a bit muddled up. On 6 December, a father or uncle dresses up in a bishop's regalia and comes (sometimes with his little assistant Knecht Ruprecht - which the altar boys like to play in our village, they get a bit of money for it) and visits children (he also comes to kindergarten, and some organise it at home). This is Nikolaus. The children sing songs and get little presents from Nikolaus if they've been good - he reads in a big book and tells them what they ought to do to be better children but generally of course, they are praised and get gifts.

This Nikolaus character is instilled into the children at a very early age with threats by some mothers. This is true. When my son was in kindergarten, I came along one morning to practise a song with them for when Nikolaus came, for them to sing to him. When one of the little boys saw me come with my guitar he thought Nikolaus was coming and dived under his chair in fear. The latest "pedagogical" idea is to get this Nikolaus to robe and disrobe in front of the children so they learn it is only a symbol, that the man himself lived centuries ago. But parents are not always in agreement with this. It takes away their threat material.

Sorry - I could write an entry on that subject alone, apparently.


Also in March we have a "Winterverbrennung" There are lots of ways of celebrating this. Usually with fires. Locally it is fairly unspectacular - a paper maché snowman is burnt, a procession of kindergarten and school children - the village band plays the traditional songs, the children sing and put on a little play - usually in rhyme. There are far more exciting traditions further South which involve throwing balls of fire and celebrating all night on hills. This is a fairly heathen event to celebrate the beginning of Summer and the end of Winter.

After the procession our kids get a type of gingerbread man and an early easter egg (a coloured, boiled, chicken's egg)


Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) is a popular day for Church goers. And also on Corpus Christi there are many traditions revolving round processions through the village.

That is a lot.
I could probably think of a few more - for example 15 August is a holiday in Bavaria

*ducks as is pushed gently from the forum*

Germany - douze points

Post 2

Sho - employed again!

That was very comprehensive. Why not make it into an entry on it's own????????
But you did forget to mention the tie thing at Karneval. My Korean colleagues (all resplendent in - possibly fake - Armani silk ties were horrified when the German woman working at the reception desk de-tied them and pinned her trophies behind her desk! Every time we have Korean visitors they warn them about this, even though I have told them at least a million times it only occurs at Karneval.

Germany - douze points

Post 3

You can call me TC

O yes, I forgot that. I'm sure I forgot some, or didn't include some which are celebrated elsewhere. Palm Sunday, for example, in Schwaben is a really big event - we happened to be there once and because it was Palm Sunday we went to church. The palm crosses were enormous - like telegraph poles and highly decorated. I saw a programme on television later which said that it was always a competition to see who has the them bigger and better ones.

And Weißer Sonntag is a concept that was new to me - when I was at a Catholic junior school, the children just went at any time.

On the same note, I should then describe Konfirmation and Jugendweihe - about which I know very little.

And I didn't describe how New Year's Eve is celebrated - there are lots of traditions practised then, too. It's so hard describing it all in English, and thinking of words for the expressions that you have never used in English before.

Some time, maybe. I am still working on the German Net, which is an enormous project and has kept me busy for several days now.

It looks as though no one else contributed, though, so it is all my doing that Germany was included at all, which is very gratifying!!

Germany - douze points

Post 4


Excellent contribution. I agree that you could write an independent entry here. Well done smiley - smiley

Germany - douze points

Post 5

Sho - employed again!

I can well relate to you having trouble explaining things in English which have figured only in German in your vocabulary before. I have the same problem, and get called "pretentious" when I can't explain things. (moi?)
I didn't see the call for entries for this one, so it's just as well you did. St Martin was new for me when I had kids, up to then I hadn't really noticed. And I hate Weißer Sonntag: urgh.

Germany - douze points

Post 6

You can call me TC

I've just remembered two more - well, actually I remembered them last week.

On 1 November, everyone visits the cemetery and puts autumnal decorations on the graves of their loved ones. Church services are held in remembrance of the dead. I am not sure if this is an entirely Catholic thing.

And on 30 April it is Witches' Night. The kids go round playing tricks. If it is a warm night, which it can be, they all traipse around the streets unravelling toilet rolls along people's fences. This is the most common thing. As well as removing people's gates and putting them in the front gardens of a house a few doors down.

Some annoying tricks are things like bending car radio aerials.

Some tricks are quite dangerous, and usually involve the police, but the culprits are rarely found. They take up the manhole covers and hide them, for example. This is very dangerous - especially at night. I have also had a thick creamy soap stuff spread all over the steps down from the front door. I went flying on to my backside. OK for me, but if I had been a little old lady of 70?

Germany - douze points

Post 7

You can call me TC

This is just to remind myself that I havent written anything about Advent. And I may well make it into an entry on its own

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