Notes From Germany

One of my expat students related this cultural mishap to me this morning and I thought it worth sharing.

She happened to spend her winter holidays at home for a change and was surprised to hear the door bell ring on a cold January morning. Not expecting any visitors, she immediately called for her German-speaking daughter to help out with any inquiries at the door. When they opened the door, they found a bunch of young children dressed up in funny costumes, singing songs. Seeing this cultural oddity for the first time in her life, my student at once grabbed her video camera to film this and her digital camera to take photos as well. Assuming they were part of this pagan rite of Fasching, she started to hand out Gummibärchen and other sweets at the end of their performance. All the while she had been making a cheerful face, happy to share the foolish feeling for Fasching.

When the group asked for money, she handed it over, too. She thought it strange, but then she also remembered that around Fasching some kids rope off the street and ask drivers for a toll fee to pass.

Only when they started to draw numerals and letters on her door, she came to realize this had to be part of a different tradition.

After the group left, her daughter was able to enlighten her a bit about their visitors’ mission – she realized she had mistaken the German Sternsinger (Star Boys’ Singing Procession) (photo) for a bunch of Fasching aficionados.

The next day, the doorbell rang again. This time she had two firefighters and a little kid in front of her. Once more she called down her daughter to help out with the situation. This time the visitors looked serious to her and she was wondering if they had to inform her about a local emergency. All the while, she also had a serious look on her face to match their appearance.

This group turned out to be members of the local Fasching committee, going around trying to recruit volunteers and members to assist with their annual Faschingsparade...

The catholic church and Fasching obviously share the same roots. Behind any façade, it is hard to tell the real clowns apart.

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