Randy and Katy Smelser

Americans living in Germany but citizens of heaven

Change those Holidays

Germany has many traditional holidays. While some of them are still a bit strange for me as an American or some are strange to non-Catholics, some are very nice.

Under the category “not really sure why that is a holiday” is Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) or as one person years ago translated it “Happy Cadaver Day”. There are no greeting cards for this holiday. The Catholics have parades to celebrate the body of Christ. We have communion every week, as do the Catholics, so I am not sure what the purpose could be.

Another holiday that I was not sure of because no one really celebrated it, was “Repent and Pray Day”. It was nestled in the week between “Dead Sunday” (to remember dead loved ones) and “The People’s Day of Mourning” (Memorial Day for the war dead). These three joyous days within 8 days during the gray November weather was often called the saddest week in Germany. But “Repent and Pray Day” is now a normal workday so things have lightened up a bit.

One interesting holiday was Martin’s Day at the beginning of November. The Protestants celebrate it on one day and the Catholics on the next – or is it the other way around? This year there was a big stink in a Kindergarten because the teachers did not think it was good to force a Christian holiday on the Muslim kids. The Muslims said they thought it was a great holiday that fit in with the Muslim religion and besides St. Martin was from Turkey.

So what is this holiday, you ask? St. Martin gave his cloak to a poor naked man in 334 AD. Martin’s Day is to honor that giving. So now kids go around begging for goodies and we can practice giving by letting them have a piece of candy. The kids are often called Martin Singer because they usually sing something at the door as a way to beg.

In our part of town they sing (and we make them sing it all)
Matten-, Mattenmähren, ..................(Low German perversion of) Martin Lord Martin
die Äpfel und die Beeren,..................The apple and the berries,
Lass uns nicht so lange steh’n!.........Don’t let us stand here too long!
Wir wollen nach Peine gehen.............We want to go to Peine.
Peine is ne große Stadt,.....................Peine is a big city,
da kriegen alle Kinder wat,................where all the kids get something.

It was cute to see hear the kids sing it but this year we had not one Martin Singer. The old is boring and they had to learn a song?

The new “in” holiday is Halloween. The kids enjoy dressing up. But for the most part it seems the adults have taken over just the Satanic side of Halloween. And so when the neighbor kids came around half way dressed up in Halloween costumes, we told them to come back on Martin’s Day. They did not so we are eating their candy.

Although I question the old traditional church holidays that no one really celebrates, I question even more the taking on American consumer driven holidays such as Valentine’s Day (big Euros for the flower and chocolate industry) and Halloween.

Martin’s Day was a good story to tell the kids and was a simple cheap holiday but not exciting enough for our modern culture?