So, you are getting ready to pack your boxes and move to the old World…Germany to be exact. But what do you really know about this country? Not much…just what have you heard from your friends or family? You may even be looking forward to some crash courses when you get there or you, Read More
Vatertag – Father’s Day in Germany
Father’s Day in Germany is celebrated differently from other parts of the world. It is always celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday forty days after Easter), which is a federal holiday. Originally, during the middle Ages, Father’s Day was a religious celebration to honor God the Father.
While in many countries the Father’s Day ritual involves little more than writing a card and giving the gift of a new pair of socks — with breakfast in bed if the father is especially lucky — the Germans have turned it into a true holiday for the country’s men. They are granted carte blanche to get riotously rip-roaring drunk.
Regionally, it is also called men’s day, Männertag, or gentlemen’s day, Herrentag. It is tradition to do a males-only hiking tour with one or more smaller wagons, Bollerwagen, pulled by manpower. In the wagons are wine, beer or schnapps and traditional regional food, Hausmannskost.
May is a strange weather month in Northern Europe. The past few Aprils in Frankfurt have had a high number of quite warm and sunny days, even if they start out with cool temperatures in the mornings. As May began, however, the temperatures have headed south, or, gone down. You have the heat running, and the wind and rain have had an extra cold bite whenever you leave the house. This has a long tradition in Europe, and it has a name. The “Eisheiligen” refers to a period in May when, according to popular farmers’ lore, the weather is still too unstable to plant crops because of the danger of frost.
The Ice Saints (Eisheilige in German, les Saints de Glace in France) is a name given to St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius in Flemish, French, Dutch, Hungarian, German, Austrian, Polish, Swiss and Croatian folklore. They are so named because their feast days fall on the days of May 11, May 12, and May 13 respectively. In Poland and the Czech Republic, the Ice Saints are St. Pancras, St. Servatus and St. Boniface of Tarsus (i.e., May 12 to May 14). To the Poles, the trio are known collectively as zimni ogrodnicy (cold gardeners), and are followed by zimna Zośka (cold Sophias) on the feast day of St. Sophia which falls on May 15. In Czech, the three saints are collectively referred to as “ledoví muži” (ice-men or icy men), and Sophia is known as “Žofie, ledová žena” (Sophia, the ice-woman). The period from May 12 to May 15 was noted to bring a brief spell of colder weather in many years, including the last nightly frosts of the spring, in the Northern Hemisphere under the Julian calendar. The introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 involved skipping 10 days in the calendar, so that the equivalent days from the climatic point of view became May 22–25.
On May 1st Germany celebrates the Labor Day so stores and government closes for the day, plan accordingly.
In April 1933, the recently installed Nazi government declared May 1 the “Day of National Work,” an official state holiday, and announced that all celebrations were to be organized by the government. Any separate celebrations by communists, social democrats or labour unions were banned. After the World War II, May 1 remained a state holiday in both East and West Germany. In communist East Germany, workers were de facto required to participate in large state-organized parades on Mayday. Today in Germany it is simply called the “Day of Labour” (“Tag der Arbeit”), and there are numerous demonstrations and celebrations by independent workers’ organizations. Today, Berlin witnesses yearly demonstrations on May Day, the largest organized by labour unions, political parties and others by the far left and Autonomen.
Since 1987, May Day has also become known for riots in some districts of Berlin. After police actions against radical leftists in that year’s annual demonstrations, the Autonome scattered and sought cover at the ongoing annual street fair in Kreuzberg. Three years prior to the reunification of Germany, violent protests would only take place in the former West Berlin. The protesters began tipping over police cars, violently resisting arrest, and began building barricades after the police withdrew due to the unforeseen resistance. Cars were set on fire, shops plundered and burned to the ground. The police eventually ended the riots the following night. These violent forms of protests by the radical left, later increasingly involved participants without political motivation. (Read more: May Day in Kreuzberg)
Annual street fairs have proven an effective way to prevent riots, and May Day in 2005 and 2006 have been among the most peaceful known to Berlin in nearly 25 years. In recent years, neo-Nazis and other groups on the far right, such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, have used the day to schedule public demonstrations, often leading to clashes with left-wing protesters, which turned especially violent in Leipzig in 1998 and 2005.
May Day violence flared again in 2010. After an approved far right demonstration was blocked by leftists, a parade by an estimated 10,000 leftists and anarchists turned violent and resulted in an active response by Berlin police.
In Germany the maypole is a tradition going back to the 16th century. It is a decorated tree or tree trunk that is usually erected either on 1 May – in Baden and Swabia – or on the evening before, for example, in East Frisia. In most areas, especially in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Austria, it is usual to have a ceremony to erect the maypole on the village green. The custom of combining it with a village or town fest, which usually takes place on 30 April, 1 May or at Pentecost (Whitsun), is widespread. This tradition is especially strong in the villages of the Bavarian Alps where the raising of the traditional maypole on 1 May in the village square is a cause for much celebration. The pole is usually painted in the Bavarian colors of white and blue and decorated with emblems depicting local crafts and industry.
Just before the Maibaum is erected, depending on the region, there may be a procession through the village, usually ending up at a central place and/or restaurant and watched by crowds of spectators and accompanied by a brass band. The actual installation of the tree then takes place in the afternoon or evening. While the crowds may spend the time drinking beer and eating sausages, the young men busy themselves with decorating the maypole to get the symbols of various trades representing the region into the right position. Whilst the maypole is traditionally set up with the help of long poles, today it may sometime also be done using tractors, forklifts or even cranes.
If the tree is erected on the eve of 1 May, then the event is usually followed by a May dance or Tanz in den Mai.
Depending on local custom, the Maibaum may remain in place until the end of the month and is then taken down, decorations removed and the trunk stored until the following year. In many parts of Bavaria it remains in place all year round.
On the night of the last day of April, many young men erect small decorated “Maibäume” in front of the houses of their sweethearts. Some attach a red heart with the name of the girl written on it to the tree.
Primarily found within the nations of Germanic Europe and the neighboring areas which they have influenced, its origins remain unknown, although it has been speculated that it originally had some importance in the Germanic paganism of Iron Age and early Medieval cultures, and that the tradition survived Christianization, albeit losing any original meaning that it had. It has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the tradition is still observed in some parts of Europe and amongst European communities in North America.
So what in the name of…. Is Walpurgisnacht ????
Well it’s a little old fun tradition, I know we have so many, but never the less here is another one. While not observed in all areas of Germany, especially in the more rural areas you may want to keep an eye out for kids running wild tonight.
Here is some history,
The German term is recorded in the 17th century as Saint Walpurgis Nacht or S. Walpurgis Abend. In earlier references, 1 May is more typically referred to as Jacobi Philippi, after James the Less and Philip, the apostles whose feast day falls on 1 May.
Walpurga was an Anglo-Saxon nun in the 8th century. She returned to Germany, the land of her ancestors, to help out her uncle St. Boniface. Boniface was a real “nice” guy who liked to travel around and defile sacred sites in central Europe as a way of converting the locals to Christianity. Walpurga continued the Family Business by running a monastery in Bavaria. She was canonized for doing a good job at the monastery and for supposedly calming a storm on her boat ride to Germany via prayer.
In Germany, Walpurgisnacht, the night from 30 April to 1 May, is the night when witches are reputed to hold a large celebration and await the arrival of spring.
In some parts of northern coastal regions of Germany, the custom of lighting huge fires is still kept alive to celebrate the coming of May, while most parts of Germany have a derived Christianized custom around Easter called “Easter fires”.
Some of the biggest celebrations can be found on the Brocken (the highest mountain in the Harz) where to this day big celebrations are held. Every year on the feast day of St. Walpurga, hordes of revelers in witches’ costumes gather on the summit of Mount Brocken in the Harz Mountains to celebrate Walpurgis Night. This traditional German festival, an extravaganza of broomsticks and dancing, now attracts people from all over the country. Why not join the thousands of would-be witches on the night proceeding the first of May and turn back the clock to the middle Ages?