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Muttertag - Mothers Day

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German postage stamp, 1957

Mothers Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The movement started in the US in 1907. In Germany it was introduced in the 1920s, initiated neither by women's rights nor charity or whatever organizations but - by the association of flower merchants, who expected big business. In the beginning the holiday used to be entirely unpolitical. This changed in the Third Reich when it was turned into an instrument of Nazi ideology.

Nowadays, Mothers Day means big business for flower shops, perfumeries and restaurants. Kindergarten and primary scools will let the kids make cards, paintings or other little gifts for their mothers. On the day itself, the basic idea is dad and the kids spoling their mums and doing all the housework for her. In practice, the kids make breakfast and mum has to clean up the mess they created in the kitchen afterwards... Then the family sets out for a day trip and lunch at a restaurant.

Grown-up "children" will take their mothers for lunch, dinner, and/or a day out. In old people's homes, being left behind without anyone coming to visit is the worst that could happen to a female inmate.

Expect restaurants to be very crowded on that day.

On the other hand, there are mothers who object against this tradition because they find it silly - all the fuss about one day, and the rest of the year no one cares. They would rather have a tiny bit of appreciation now and then throughout the year than one big day.

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:06 Archived in Germany Tagged germany holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

Himmelfahrt/Vatertag - Ascension/Fathers Day

The Ascension of Christ is celebrated 39 days after Easter and 10 days before Pentecost, so it is always on a Thursday. It is a public holiday in the whole of Germany, meaning that shops are closed and public transport operates on Sunday/holiday schedule. Ascension takes place in May or early June at the beginning of the summery season when everyone wants to be outdoors, weather permitting.

Since the mothers have had their holiday shortly before, it is only fair to grant the fathers a special day, too. However, the fathers are not treated to gifts, breakfast in bed and lunch or dinner at a fancy restaurant. Instead their wives and families give the men a day off to go on tour with their mates and do what men are said to like best: drink and be merry.

A traditional fathers day tour involves a group of men, not all of them necessarily fathers, going for a hike, accompanied by a barrel of beer on a cart and sufficient supply of stronger booze. The final destination of the hike is usually some country pub or beer garden. Old-fashioned hats and singing to the sound of a musical instrument are optional.

This is the cliché and it is still done by some. In case you are travelling Germany on Himmelfahrt and meet such groups of drunk guys, don't panic - they are noisy but harmless. Most of them do this only once a year, on Vatertag, and in the evening they return home worn out and rueful with a bunch of flowers to pacify their wives...

Women and kids won't stay home all day either. There are also many mixed groups around. Families as well as clubs, circles of friends etc. do hiking or biking tours, picknicks, camping etc. Many people take Friday off, so the long weekend is peak travel time. Expect local trains, roads and parking lots, pubs and beer gardens, parks and hiking trails and similar to be crowded. The long weekend is also popular for city trips and other short travels.

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:08 Archived in Germany Tagged churches germany events holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

Pfingsten - Pentecost/Whitsunday

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Pfingsten is celebrated on the 50th day after Easter and marks the coming of the Holy Spirit and is the birthday of the worldwide church. Unlike Christmas and Easter there are no traditions on Pentecost which are common all over the country. To most people this is nothing but a welcome long weekend - note that Whitmonday is a public holiday. The schools will close for a week or two and the time around Ascension and Pentecost is a busy travel time.

Some rural areas have their local customs. The best known is the presentation of a Pfingstochse (Pentecost ox) - on this day the cattle is sent out to pasture for the first time and the strongest animal is decorated with a straw wreath, flowers and ribbons. "Frilly as a Pfingstochse" has become proverbial for a person who has dressed up too much and without taste.

The peony (Pfingstrose) is a typical and popular garden flower that blooms around Pentecost.

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:09 Archived in Germany Tagged churches germany events holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

Fronleichnam - Corpus Christi

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Flower carpets in Weingarten

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Fronleichnam is a high catholic holiday, celebrated 10 days after Pentecost on the Thursday after Trinity. It honours the Eucharist. Celebrations begin with a festive mass in church, followed by a procession with the blessed sacrament which stops at certain stations where altars have been put up. Customs often involve decorations of churches and streets with flowers and green.

Some places have their special traditions. In the village of Weingarten in Baden, for example, flower carpets are made in the streets along the way of the procession (see photos). This tradition in not indigenous but has been brought there by refugees from the East after World War II. A local artist designs the pictures every year which are then made from petals and leaves.

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in the Federal States of Bayern, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland and in the catholic parts of Thüringen and Sachsen.

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Corpus Christi procession in Stuttgart

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:10 Archived in Germany Tagged germany events holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

17. Juni – June 17, old Day of German Unity

June 17 used to be a public holiday in the pre-1990 Federal Republic of Germany as Day of German Unity, a distant utopia in cold war times.

West Germany was probably the only country in the world that had a national holiday to commemorate events which happened outside the own borders. On June 17, 1953, riots against the Socialist regime started in the German Democratic Republic. The attempted revolution was quickly and violently suppressed with the help of Soviet military within two days. In the East the memory of those events was suffocated. The West, however, established the date as public holiday.

The holiday has disappeared from the calendar since 1990, though. It was substituted by October 3, the date the reunification was executed. June 17 is a normal work day now.
It si still in the media, though, and politicians like making speeches about it.

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:12 Archived in Germany Tagged history germany holidays Comments (0)

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