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Festivals of Western Europe

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Perseus
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« Reply #75 on: April 29, 2009, 03:25:45 pm »

LINDENFEST (Linden Tree Festival), in Geisenheim, region of the Rhineland Three day festival, second weekend in July

    Geisenheim boasts a six-hundred-year-old linden tree which is the center of the annual celebration for sampling new wine. Geisenheim is the oldest town in Rheingau County which, for over a thousand years, has been renowned for flourishing vineyards and precious wines.

During three days of festivities the ancient linden is illumined and folk dances in costume are held beneath its spreading branches. The town fairly bursts with laughter and merrymaking, since visitors from all over the world come to taste Geisenheim's wine and participate in her annual **** of feasting, visiting the vineyards and making pilgrimages to Marienthal, a picturesque Franciscan shrine, which is hidden in a nearby wooded valley.

High above the sounds of festivity and merrymaking the chimes of the old Rheingau Cathedral chime out melodiously:


What bells are those, that ring so slow,
So mellow, musical, and low?
They are the bells of Geisenheim,
That with their melancholy chime
Ring out the curfew of the sun.
    --LONGFELLOW. Christus. Part Two. VI
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« Reply #76 on: April 29, 2009, 03:25:58 pm »

SCHAFERLAUF (Shepherds' Race), in Markgroningen, region of Swabia Saint Bartholomew-tide, about August 23, 24, 25

    Markgroningen and other Swabian towns honor Saint Bartholomew, patron of herdsmen, with a three-day festival which includes a barefoot Shepherd's Race.

    The celebration begins with a church service, which is followed by a colorful procession through the town, a welcome to guests and a program of sports and contests. Chief among the latter is the race which barefoot shepherds and shepherdesses run in pairs across the stubble fields.

    The victors are honored by a shepherds' dance, a water carriers' race and other events. These features are followed by a historical play known as Faithful Bartel. Period costumes, processions, pageants and general merrymaking all are features of the celebration.

    Later in the day toasts are drunk to the winners in the season's first new wine, and both shepherds and shepherdesses are entertained by a sumptuous rural feast.

PFERDEWEIHE (Blessing of Horses), in St. Margen, region of the Black Forest Day of the Nativity of the Virgin, September 8

    On the Day of the Nativity of the Virgin, Black Forest farmers and their wives bring their horses to St. Margen to receive the priest's benediction. St. Margen, long known as the center of a famous horse breeding area, is especially noted for the sturdy horses which work the neighboring farms.

    The horses, which are brought to town from outlying hamlets, are festively decked with well-polished traditional brasses. Nosegays adorn the harnesses while ribbon streamers, interwoven in manes and tails, flutter gaily as the horses trot. Both men and women, dressed in picturesque costumes of the Black Forest valley, add brilliant splashes of color to the handsome procession of horses.

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« Reply #77 on: April 29, 2009, 03:26:12 pm »

ALMABTRIEB (Return from Mountain Pasture), in the German Alps Some time in September

    The day that the flower-decked cattle are driven down from the mountains to winter in their valley homes is the occasion for merrymaking and rejoicing throughout the German Alps. All summer long the animals, under the watchful eye of rosy-cheeked Sennerinnen, or herd-girls, have roamed at large and grazed in lush mountain pastures.

    Now the cattle are sleek and fat. There is a frosty nip in the September air. It is high time to take the animals back to winter shelter. The entire village turns out to celebrate the homecoming and to welcome both girls and beasts; for as the animals prosper, so thrives the farm. The village band is on hand to greet the picturesque procession. There are, also, the priest, the school master, the farmer and his wife and, of course, the herd girl's sweetheart, family, and friends. Last, but by no means least, there is a host of village children dressed in gay regional costumes.

    The air throbs with suppressed excitement, for long before the slow moving animals swing into sight, the rhythmic clanging of deep-toned bells echoes melodiously from the distant mountain passes.

    Almabtrieb is indeed a gala event. The adornment of the cattle, like the costume of the herd-girl, differs considerably from place to place, but always is picturesque. In the Berchtesgaden area, for example, around the beautiful Alpine lake known as Konigssee, the herd leader wears a distinctive traditional headdress which is a most elaborate creation. It resembles a two-tiered crown, which the herd-girl's clever fingers fashion from thinly-shaved colored wood. The shavings are woven into stars, bows, or other intricate designs and fastened to the lower tier, while the upper is surmounted by a small, gaily decorated fir, which looks like a miniature Christmis tree.

    Skillfully, the Sennerrinnen drive the cattle down from their Watzmann Mountain summer quarters, making sure to guide them safely along rocky paths and treacherous ledges. The final stage of the journey comes whe--i their charges reach K6nigssee at the foot of the mountain, and broad-bottomed flower-decked boats ferry them across the lake. A triumphant shout rises from the impatient reception committee waiting on the opposite shore.

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« Reply #78 on: April 29, 2009, 03:26:24 pm »

Once the cattle are safely driven to winter shelter the real festivities begin. Each farm couple prepares a sumptuous welcome home supper, which is followed by music, dancing, and singing lasting far into the crisp autumn night.

TURA MICHELE MARKT (Tura Michele Fair) in Augsburg, state of Bavaria September 29

    On September 29, Saint Michael's Day, the city of Augsburg holds an annual autumn fair to which hundreds of peasants from far and near come for trade and pleasure. Chief among the day's attractions is the hourly appearance of figures representing the Archangel and the Devil. The figures are built in the foundation of Perlach Turm, or Tower, called Tura in local dialect. This slender structure, which rises to a height of two-hundred-and-twenty-five-feet and stands next to the Peter's Kirche, north of the Rathaus, originally was a watch tower. In 1615 the watch tower was heightened and converted into a belfry.

    Almost a hundred years earlier the group depicting the saint and the devil had been installed in the tower's understructure. Annually on his feast day the archangel's armor-clad figure, holding a pointed spear, appeared whenever the tower bell struck, and stabbed at the devil writhing at his feet.

    During World War II the historic figures--the delight of generations of fair-goers--were destroyed. Since then a new group has been made and installed. Today, as for over four centuries, spectators continue to gather about the Tura and to watch breathlessly the symbolic drama of Michael, head of the Church Triumphant, dealing death blows to the dragon which brings evil and destruction to the world of men.

MUNCHENER OKTOBERFEST (Munich October Festival), in Munich, state of Bavaria Usually the third Sunday in September; when there are five Sundays in the month, from the fourth Sunday in September to the first Sunday in October

    In Munich the Oktoberfest celebrates the annual season of drinking huge quantities of new Munchener beer, feasting on Steckerl-fisch, or stick-fried fish, tasty sausages of all sizes and shapes, plump chickens and whole oxen, spit-roasted over pan fires.

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« Reply #79 on: April 29, 2009, 03:26:34 pm »

 The Oktoberfest, with its drinking, feasting, and general jollification, is the anniversary of the marriage of King Ludwig I and his bride, Theresa, on October 17, 1810. The Theresienwiese, or Theresa Meadow, where festivities are held, was named in honor of Ludwig's queen. Today hundreds of Bavarian peasants crowd into this huge area to carry on the tradition of merrymaking on a royal scale.

    The festival opens as the burgomaster taps the first keg of beer. The beer which is drawn from barrels, is served by buxom Frauleins in native costume and drunk from enormous steins.

    Powerful brewery horses decorated with gleaming brasses and colored ribbon streamers, clatter noisily through the narrow streets, dragging heavily-loaded beer trucks. Festivity is in the air. Everywhere one sees bright costumes and hears folk singing and the tireless rhythm of dancing feet.

    Munich's Oktoberfest, which annually is attended by millions of visitors from Germany and foreign countries, is noted for all kinds of amusements besides eating and drinking, although food consumption is an important part of the annual celebration. Merchandise is bought and sold from cleverly-decorated booths which feature household articles, clothing, foodstuffs, and sweets. Burly farmers enjoy an agricultural show, while carnival features such as merry-gorounds, side shows, and sports events, furnish entertainment for the general public. In addition to historical pageants and a magnificent parade which shows costumes from all parts of the country, there is the traditional Schafflertanz, or Coopers' Dance. The dance is a five-hundred-year-old custom. It is performed every seven years during carnival season in Munich, a city in which beer coopers have always been much respected. Twenty-five coopers, in colorful costume and the leather aprons of their trade, execute the steps of the dance, slowly swingin
hoops of fir branches and beating time with their tools on barrels. The dance was last performed at the Oktoberfest in 1956.

GRENZUMGANG (Boundary Walk), in Springe Deister, Lower Saxony 1961, and every ten years thereafter

    Springe Deister observes its Boundary Walk once every decade. The celebration was revived in 1951, following a twenty-three-year lapse.

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« Reply #80 on: April 29, 2009, 03:26:47 pm »

Boundary Walk festivals, held in many German towns, differ from place to place according to local tradition. The custom dates back to the Middle Ages when surveying in the modern sense was unknown. In those days land-owners and churchmen, accompanied by stalwart armed men, periodically reviewed the boundaries to see that marking stones were in place and hunting or fishing rights observed. In later times woodsmen and soldiers walked town and village boundaries and, when all was in order, ended the ceremony with a huge feast.

    In Springe Deister Boundary Walk celebrations start with morning reveille and a Fire Department band concert. The burgomaster then reads a proclamation concerning the day's activities.

    Generally the local band leads off a group of marchers who carry the town's treasure chest at their head. At the first boundary a delegation from an adjoining town meets Springe's citizens. An appropriate ceremony is held, drinks are exchanged. The group then continues to the next boundary point, and the next. Each time the marchers are joined by more neighbors, each time they indulge in further cheer. By the time final rounds are completed the marchers are hilarious. Their ranks have so greatly increased, moreover, that the group divides and proceeds in different columns to various points, where festivities are continued.

SCHUTZENFESTE (Marksmen's Festivals), all over Germany At various times during the year

    Throughout Germany, from small cities to large ones, the Schutzenfest, or Marksmen's Festival, is one of the most important annual events. These festivals originated five or six hundred years ago with the decline of the knights' feudal power. Archery contests by citizen marksmen superseded medieval tournaments of the knights. Marksmen, rather than knights, became responsible for the protection of towns and villages against enemy attack.

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« Reply #81 on: April 29, 2009, 03:26:57 pm »

At regular intervals contests were held to keep these guardians of the peace in top form. People gathered from far and near to witness their feats of skill. Gradually, the marksmen's contests became gala events, lasting for several days. Throughout the centuries popular elements were introduced, such as processions in costume, folk dance exhibitions, special foods and various amusements. In this way the marksmen's festivals finally developed into folk festivals in which everyone participated. Today they are observed with an enthusiasm which is rivaled only by the holiday spirit prevalent at Christmas, the New Year, and Carnival.

    Each town and hamlet celebrates its Schutzenfest at its own time and in its own way. In Biberach, for example, the festival occurs on the first Monday and Tuesday of July. For centuries the town has featured a procession of children dressed in period costume who are accompanied by local bands and colorfully attired heralds. In places like Dusseldorf and Neuss, on the other hand, the event occurs in late August, while Hannover celebrates on the first Sunday in July. Some forty or fifty marksmen's societies participate in these events. The man who scores highest in the contests is crowned Schutzenkonig, or King of the Marksmen, and is escorted through the streets to the accompaniment of blaring trumpets and beating drums. Colorful banners, stretched across the streets, flutter in the breeze. Spectators shout themselves hoarse as the King proceeds triumphantly to his coronation and receives homage from his thousands of admiring subjects.

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« Reply #82 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:07 pm »

LEONHARDIRITT (Saint Leonard's Ride), in Bad Tolz, State of Bavaria November 6

    November 6 is the namesday of Saint Leonard, the sixth-century hermit-abbott, who was reared by his godfather, the pious Saint Remy, Archbishop of Rheims. Saint Leonard is patron of prisoners and farm animals, especially horses and cattle. This saint, who won many tourneys before giving himself to God, is especially revered in Bavaria and Austria, where numerous chapels are dedicated to his name. These small shrines, which usually are situated in mountain places outside the villages, are covered with votive offerings consisting of horseshoes, pliers, palls, and other objects associated with horses and cattle raising. Iron chains, also, are often present, for Saint Leonard reputedly had power to break chains and set all prisoners free.

    Saint Leonard is honored throughout Bavaria but nowhere, perhaps, more picturesquely than at Bad Tolz, where peasants in native costume celebrate his namesday by riding to church in Truhenwagen, chest wagons, which are gaily painted with incidents from the saint's life. Religious ceremonies are held in a chapel on top of Kalvarien, Calvary Mountain, which overlooks the river Isar. The small edifice was built in 1772, on a spot once occupied by a huge old tree.

    From homesteads and farms high up in the mountain festival wagons--possibly sixty in all--come drawn by spirited horses wearing gleaming brass-studded harnesses. The animals proudly toss manes and flip their long tails, which are decorated with flowers, ribbons, and sprays of green. An outrider, carrying a colorful banner, accompanies each conveyance. Great white horses draw a wagon in which members of the clergy and the Tolz councilmen ride in state.

    The procession, led by a handsome horseback rider and accompanied by the local rifleman's band, assembles at the foot of Calvary Mountain and makes its way up the steep ascent to the Chapel. There the worshipers walk three times about the sanctuary and, following open air Mass, receive the priest's blessing on both horses and wagons.

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« Reply #83 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:18 pm »

Later the procession returns to town where the group disbands to the accompaniment of lively music. The "Riders of Saint Leonard," as the mounted escort is called, then participate in a whip cracking contest--an ancient and honored sport in this part of Bavaria.

    In many hamlets cattle, rather than horses, participate in the Saint Leonard's Ride, for they, also, fall under the saint's special protection. Hundreds of miniature iron votive churches are consecrated and then purchased by faithful worshipers, in the hope that Saint Leonard's intercession will preserve the animals from sickness and disease throughout the year.

MARTINSFEST (Saint Martin's Festival) Saint Martin's Eve, November 10, Saint Martin's Day, November 11

    Martinsfest is a festival of significance to both Catholic and Protestant Germany. The occasion honors Saint Martin, Jovial fourth-century friend of children and patron of the poor, and also Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation in Germany, born November 10, 1483. German Catholic communities along the Rhine and elsewhere, but especially in Dusseldorf, pay annual tribute to Saint Martin; while Protestant groups, notably in Thuringia, long have celebrated Martin Luther's birthday in picturesque fashion. In prewar Erfurt, where Martin Luther attended the university, it was customary for thousands of children, carrying lighted lanterns, to form in procession and march up to the Plaza before the Cathedral and the Severi Church. There the young people with their lanterns traditionally formed the "Luther rose," or the escutcheon of Martin Luther.

    In many Black Forest areas Saint Martin's Day is celebrated by a village fair. Along the Upper Rhine, however, where Frankish missionaries first introduced the Christian faith and venerated Saint Martin as their patron, the Eve is characterized by children's lantern processions and the Day by feasting on roast goose. Rural inhabitants of Black Forest and Lake Constance districts usually plan their feast to coincide with the slaughter of the family pig. Friends and neighbors, the school master and the preacher are invited to dinner and village youngsters come around from door to door. They chant traditional ditties and demand "a sausage so long you can wind it three times around the oven, across the room and out to the singing boys!"

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« Reply #84 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:30 pm »

Legends abound to explain the eating of goose on this day. One is that the saint died after eating a whole goose at a single meal. Many claim that the custom of eating goose originated in pagan times when, according to German mythology, the bird was sacrificed to Wotan, father of the gods. Others say that Martinmass feasting began with Thanksgiving ceremonies for Freya, goddess of plenty.

    Saint Martin in Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, is regarded as patron of the harvest and friend of the poor. On his anniversary people invite others to share their bounty, to make merry, feast on autumn foods and drink the new red wines. Saint Martin himself set the pattern for sharing when, as a dashing young soldier at the gates of Amiens, he divided his cloak with a beggar.

    Saint Martin's Day is for family, friends, and the needy, but Saint Martin's Eve is for children.


Let's be happy, let's be gay,
Let's be children all today,

is the ancient song which resounds through Dusseldorf's streets at nightfall, as hundreds of jubilant boys and girls scurry hither and yon, swinging fantastic lanterns from long poles and gathering for their famous procession. An adult, representing Saint Martin, heads the long line. Then come the children, bobbing homemade lanterns of every conceivable size and shape. Some of the simpler goblin lanterns are made from hollowed-out pumpkins or beets, illumined by lighted candles. There are also wooden lanterns with elaborately colored windows, strange animals, and cunningly fashioned windmills. Among the more ambitious creations are lanterns representing Lambertus Church with its leaning tower.

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« Reply #85 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:40 pm »

Through the streets the children advance, singing, holding their lanterns, which rise and fall like the waves of the sea. Against the background of the city's ancient gabled facades; through the cobbled streets of the Altstadt or old town, on into the broad avenues of the town's newer parts the procession steadily moves, the children's lighted lanterns casting fantastic shadows against the dark walls of silent buildings.

    From every quarter the Saint Martin's Eve theme song,


Let's be happy, let's be gay,
Let's be children all today,

rises like a mighty chant from the throats of hundreds of clear-voiced boys and girls. The words are caught up by thousands of spectators and repeated in the cracked voices of aged men and women on the sidelines who, on this one night in the year, relive their lost youth.

HAMBURGER DOM (Dom Fair) in Hamburg November until Christmas

    Hamburg's ancient Dom probably is one of the most unique Christmas fairs not only in Germany, but in the world. The fair gets its name from the fact that, in olden days, it was held in the open square before the Dom, or cathedral. Today the fair occupies the Helligengelstfeld, or Holy Ghost Field, in the center of town.

    There are booths filled with all kinds of exciting toys, sugared gingerbreads, and myriads of useless knicknacks which attract the eye and lure the last pfennig from pockets of holiday shoppers.

    The Dom opens in November and continues until shortly before Christmas.

ADVENT (Advent) The four weeks preceding Christmas

    Advent customs vary from place to place, but everywhere in Germany the four weeks before Christmas are looked upon as a preparation period for the greatest festival of the Christian year.

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« Reply #86 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:50 pm »

In towns an villages of northern Germany every household has a "Star of Seven," a seven-branch candlestick. On Christmas Eve the candles are lighted. At midnight each family carries its glowing pointed "star" across meadows, through dark crooked lanes, along snowy streets to service in the village church. There, amid a blaze of lighted stars, parishioners reverently kneel and welcome the Christkind to their hearts and homes.

    Many families make Advent wreaths of fir which are decorated with gold or silver ribbons or just scarlet woolen threads. Sometimes the wreaths hang from the ceiling beams; sometimes they adorn the tables. On each of the four Saturdays or Sundays in Advent a candle is lighted-one on the first day, two on the second, three on the third, and so on. Members of the family or groups of friends customarily sit about the lighted wreath, singing seasonal carols and preparing handmade Christmas gifts.

CHRISTKINDLSMARKT or CHRISTKINDLESMARKT (Kriss Kringle's Fair), in Nuremberg, State of Bavaria Early December until Christmas

    Nuremberg's Christkindlsmarkt, one of the most traditional of Germany's many holiday fairs, starts about December 4 in the old town's marketplace and continues until Christmas. The fair is so ancient that nobody remembers just when it began. In 1697 the historian Wagenseil, himself a native Nuremberger, described the event much as it is celebrated today. Many think that the fair originated in the Middle Ages and that it was associated with Twelfth Day ceremonials.

    The mayor of the town opens the event with a speech. Then, to the accompaniment of Christmas music, a child dressed like Nuremberg's "gold angel" makes a dramatic appearance and welcomes visitors in verse.

    The gold angel is reminiscent of an ancient event. In medieval times people who came to the fair saw in church a replica of the Christ Child in the manger. In those days it was customary to give the Christ Child away to the children in the form of a doll. After the Reformation, the original significance of the custom was lost and the Christ Child doll gradually became a Christmas angel. Today the angel is dressed in gold-colored robes of eighteenth-century style.

    As Christmas approaches native toy-makers make thousands of reproductions of Nuremberg's golden angel. An angel graces every home and hovers as guardian over fair-time festivities. Quite aside from golden angels, however, the fair is distinguished by its rows and rows of colorful booths, each filled with such holiday delights as glittering Christmas tree decorations, clever toys such as only the fingers of Nuremberg craftsmen can fashion, marvelous Lebkuchen and pungent gingerbreads to make a child's nostrils tingle and mouth water. Then there are cunningly wrought figures of the baby Jesus in his crib, surrounded by Mary, Joseph, and adoring shepherds. There are small painted sheep, cows, asses, chickens and dogs--all so life-like and enticing that parents scarcely can drag their offspring past the tempting wares.

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« Reply #87 on: April 29, 2009, 03:27:59 pm »

Even more attractive to youthful imagination, perhaps, are the numberless booths filled with such specialties as savory-smelling roasted sausages or delicately grilled herrings. There are sweets, of course, all kinds of traditional candies, hard spicy peppernuts, and little pink-frosted cookies, adorned with delightful sugar scrolls or, possibly, a brightly colored picture or bit of shiny mirror.

    Yes, the Nuremberg Christkindlsmarkt is full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells. It symbolizes for grown-ups unforgettably beautiful childhood memories; for small boys and girls it is little short of paradise.

SANKT NIKOLAUS-ABEND and SANKT NIKOLAUS-TAG (Saint Nicholast Eve and Saint Nicholas Day) December 5, 6

    The Yuletide season opens officially on December 5, Saint Nicholas Eve, or on the morning of December 6, when the good saint appears in person in many towns and villages and calls on the children. Saint Nicholas (or, in some places, his assistant, Knecht Rupprecht, or Christkindle or Kriss Kringle) usually is regarded as a pre-Christmas messenger who examines the youngsters' behavior. He promises gifts of toys and sweets if the children are good. If they are bad, however, he flourishes bundles of birch rods and threatens punishment unless naughty ways are mended. Sometimes he reminds children of their waywardness by presenting little bundles of twigs, either real or of candy.

    In some places children place a shoe or a large stocking beside the bed or outside the door. Saint Nicholas then leaves a small gift or a bundle of rods, to remind the little ones of their behavior--good or bad.

    On Saint Nicholas Eve, in the Rhineland and in northern Germany, the holiday Spekulatius makes its first appearance. Spekulatius is traditional hard gingerbread which is made in molds to represent Saint Nicholas, little men, or animals. Sometimes, also, it comes in thin, yard-long loaves.

HEILIGABEND (Christmas Eve) December 24

    Christmas is the gayest holiday of the German calendar and the Weihnachtsbaum, or Christmas tree, with its lighted candles, gilded nuts, multicolored paper garlands, shining red apples and dancing, raisin-eyed gingerbread men, is the symbol of the German Yuletide. The real holiday begins with Christmas Eve church services, which are followed by home festivities and family gatherings.

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« Reply #88 on: April 29, 2009, 03:28:13 pm »

In most parts of Germany the trimming of the Christmas tree is done on the twenty-fourth, although in some places people do it whenever convenient on the days preceding. Usually the rite is performed in greatest secrecy by the heads of the household, who are the only persons having access to the room in which the tree is kept. Presents for each member of the household, including the domestics, and bunte Teller, plates filled with apples, nuts, Pfefferkuchen, marzipan and other goodies, as well as presents, are grouped under and about the tree.

    At last the white candles on the Christmas tree are lighted and all other lights extinguished. A bell rings and the children are allowed to enter the room and look at the tree in all its glory. After singing Christmas carols, which usually include such old time favorites as O Tannenbaum and Stille Nacht, the moment for the Bescherung, or distribution of presents arrives. The children are told that their gifts have been left under the tree by the Weinachtsmann (the Christmas Man, Santa Claus or his helper, Knecht Rupprecht), or by Christkind, the Christ Child.

    The rest of the evening is spent in opening gifts, singing and merrymaking.

SCHAFER-WALZER (Shepherds' Waltz), in Assinghausen, region of Westphalia December 24

    For over a hundred years the gay rhythms of the "Shepherds' Waltz" have characterized the Christmas Eve service of Assinghausen's little church. At midnight the bells ring out joyously and devout villagers from throughout the parish hasten through heavily drifted snows to the tiny church, where candles blaze and the pungent smell of melted wax mingles with the spicy scent of pine.

    Worshipers bend their heads reverently as the priest offers the Christmas prayer and reads the Gospel story of the manger birth. Suddenly, the merry strains of the Shepherds' Waltz flow through the sanctuary and scores of heavily shod feet begin to beat time to the gay dance music which issues from the organ loft.

    The birth of the Son of God is welcomed in Assinghausen with secular music, as a result of a century-old tradition. According to church records Herr F. W. Grimme, local poet and church organist, was playing a hymn on Christmas Eve, when word came that he had just become father of a seventh child. On the anniversary of this night two thousand years ago, reasoned Herr Grimme, shepherds had brought glad tidings of Jesus' birth. Quickly the organist broke off the stately hymn he was playing and started improvising a joyous waltz such as he imagined the shepherds might have played on their pipes, in honor of the arrival of Bethlehem's Child.

WEIHNACHTEN (Christmas) December 25 and 26

    Both December 25 and 26 are public holidays. In many homes Christmas Day, Der Erste Feiertag, is strictly a family day which is spent quietly in enjoyment of the Christmas tree, the new books, and appropriate seasonal music. Der Zweite Feiertag, Second Christmas, often is spent in more worldly fashion as a time for visiting friends, attending dances, and indulging in all kinds of merrymaking.

    Of course, food is important in all the holiday festivities. Roast goose and Christstollen, long loaves of bread bursting with nuts, raisins, citron and dried fruits, Lebkuchen, Pfefferkuchen, marzipan, and scores of other tempting dainties are important among the holiday foods. Berliners eat carp at Christmas. Whoever finds roe with his fish is happy, for the superstition is that he will find money in the coming year.

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« Reply #89 on: April 29, 2009, 03:28:40 pm »

There are many old folk superstitions regarding the "Twelve Nights" between Christmas and Epiphany. Peasants often forecast weather for the twelve months by the "onion calendar." They cut an onion into twelve slices and sprinkle each portion with salt. The wetness or dryness of the coming months is predicted according to the degree of moisture found on each of the twelve slices.

ALLERKINDERTAG (Holy Innocents' Day) December 28

    Boys and girls of Thuringia celebrate the anniversary of King Herod's slaughter of Bethlehem's children with a custom sometimes called "whipping with fresh greens." Armed wilh switches and green branches the children go out into the streets and spank passers-by with their rods, demanding at the same time small money gifts.

    The custom doubtless originated in pagan times when whipping was regarded as an early spring purification rite intended to drive out demons and disperse powers of darkness.

SILVESTERABEND (New Year's Eve) December 31

    This is a merry night throughout Germany. Traditional foods, ancient customs, old fashioned games and beloved folk songs all play an important role in colorful celebrations that take place in various areas.

    People in different localities think it "lucky" to eat certain foods on this last night of the old year. For example, there is the traditional carp, which is served not only in the homes but in fashionable metropolitan restaurants. In northern Germany many people, especially those of the older generation, not only eat the fish but slip a few of the shining scales into their purses as a New Year's charm to ensure plenty of money in the next twelve months! Then there is the traditional Silvesterabend punch, a fine hot potent toddy made of cinnamon-and-sugar-flavored red wine, which is served with Pfannkuchen, or doughnuts.

    Just as carp is thought by some to bring good luck, so Baden folk insist that their special dried pea soup is auspicious for all partakers.

    Along the lower Rhine there are many delightful New Year's Eve foods including Noujoer, or "little New Year" yeast cookies, baked in spiral wreath forms or in pretzel or circle shapes. In Bergisch-Land and Wuppertal the favorite pastry is Ballbauschen, a toothsome fried cake stuffed with raisins and currants.

    Regardless of locality, however, or the special fare enjoyed on Silvesterabend, everybody agrees that to secure a well-stocked larder for the coming year one must leave on one's plate a bit of every kind of food--at least, until after the clock strikes midnight!

    According to ancient Germanic folk belief prowling demons, devils and other spirits of darkness must be routed on the last night of the year by mummery and noise. For the most part the superstition has been forgotten, but shooting parties still are popular at Berchtesgaden, in the Bavarian Alps, and elsewhere, and Buttenmandl, or Little Butten Men, still run through streets of towns and villages. The Buttenmandl are peasants dressed in straw clothing who wear deerskin animal masks. They hold clanging bells and drag clanking chains in an effort to drive out evil spirits! Members of the shooting societies, on the other hand, do their part in routing demons by scaling the Berchtesgaden heights and shooting in unison five hundred or more old mortars.

    In Schiltach on the Kinzig a four-hundred-year-old ceremony annually is reenacted with the midnight ringing of the church bells. Old and young, carrying lighted lanterns, assemble in the town square and pledge to protect their town under all circumstances. After a hymn of thanksgiving the lantern bearers visit the parsonage, where the pastor greets them and gives his blessing.

    The procession then returns to the square where the Burgomaster of Schittach delivers a New Year message in which he reviews events of the past year and extends best wishes for the one to come. The official greeting is accepted and congratulations returned by one of the town's leading citizens.

    The last night of the year is regarded as a propitious occasion for looking into the future. "Lead pouring" parties are popular among young people who drop a little melted lead into a bowl of cold water and read fortunes for the coming year from the shapes the metal assumes. Thus a ship may mean a voyage to distant shores, a pig, food and plenty on the farm, a ring, a wedding, and so on.

    In lower Rhine areas card games are the most popular pastime of the season. Everyone plays until midnight; but as soon as church bells begin to peal and sirens to blow, everyone throws down the cards and shouts the ancient greeting, "Prosit Neujahr!"

    In some places bands of children go from house to house singing carols. Sometimes the songs are addressed especially to godfathers and godmothers. The children are welcomed by householders who give them presents of nuts, apples, Pfefferkuchen and coins.

    In certain communities the night watchman still goes about at midnight on New Year's Eve and recites this traditional verse:


In the name of the Lord
The Old Year goes out the door.
This is my wish for each of you:
Peace forever, and Praise to God, our Lord.



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