Discovering Traditions: Karneval by Conny Kaufmann

Discovering Tradition

Carnival is early this year, I am happy to have Conny Kaufmann as my guest for Discovering Traditions today. She is sharing this very important German tradition, especially for those who live or are from Köln, Düsseldorf and the surrounding region. This is the 3rd Discovering Traditions post, you can find the other two here and here.

Discovering Traditions: Karneval by Conny Kaufmann

Alaaf and Helau!

They call it “The Fifth Season.” A season of fun, festivities and frivolities, before the start of Lent. And when you’re in Germany, the Rhineland region – especially Cologne – is the place to be during Karneval.

Karneval is celebrated the world over and has many names. Within Germany, you’ll hear the common Karneval, Fasching or Fastnacht, depending on regional preference. They all traditionally refer to the last full scrumptious meal before Lent, the traditional, Catholic time of fasting. Even if you have never heard of the German celebration, chances are that Carnavale do Rio de Janeiro, Notting Hill Carnival, Venetian Carnival or Mardi Gras are fests you are familiar with. They all celebrate the same thing, just in slightly different ways. Mardi Gras even translates as “Fat Tuesday”, because nice and fatty foods were restricted from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. So if your region celebrates Karneval, chances are it is – or historically used to be – predominantly Catholic. Continue reading “Discovering Traditions: Karneval by Conny Kaufmann”

Saint Martin’s Day

Today, is the 11th of November. In my very early childhood I celebrated Saint Martin’s Day every year. When I started school, I was shocked to discover that this was not celebrated everywhere in Germany, that so many children had no idea what fun the 11th of November could be.

National Blog Posting Month, NanoPoblano, NaBloPoMo, 2015Proudly equipped with a handcrafted lantern I would join the other kids in the Saint Martin Procession through the small town in which my kindergarten was located. We would follow Saint Martin sitting on his horse through the streets, singing songs in his honour. Sometimes a little accident would happen, such as a lantern lighting up in flames, it was not only scary but also heartbreaking that all this hard work, all these efforts were erased in a few seconds.

The lyrics of these songs have actually taught me many details of the story behind Saint Martin. He was a Roman who was for some reason searched for by the police. At one point he encounters a beggar who is only dressed in shreds, he divides his cloak and gives half of it to the poor fellow. Then he hides inside a farm building, not knowing where he goes he finds himself in the company of geese. But unlike geese normally do, these keep their beaks shut and don’t give Saint Martin away. Turns out that I did not remember the right details/I was told an alternative version of the story (most likely)… The geese did give him away! (Sorry for this hiccup).

To honour the quiet geese, often people will feast on Saint Martin’s day with a goose. We never had goose that day, but we received Weckmänner, small brioche cakes in the shape of a man equipped with a pipe. Let me tell you they were so good.

After the procession in honour of Saint Martin was over, it was time to go from door to door and sing to people, who in exchange for the songs gave candy and treats to us children singing them. I remember receiving healthy food such as clementines from one of my neighbours, I guess not everyone was informed of this regional tradition.

When I later went trick or treating on Halloween, I was reminded of Saint Martin’s day, I was just missing my lantern.


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