Monday 30 November 2015

Strange German Holidays #10 - The Mourning Days

My usual blog posts are still on hold while I'm in full hermit mode - working as fast as I can on some christmas projects I can't share yet, and not much in the mood for people or blogging. But I really like this holiday project, so I need to bring at least that to a good end - would be a shame giving up so close to the end of the year!

So, the mourning days...that's not an official term, but something I just invented to talk about three somewhat similiar holidays in November.

First, there is All-Saints-Day (Allerheiligen). It's a Catholic high-holiday held on November 1st to honour all of the saints, and it's an actual holiday in some parts of Germany (as in, a day off). I don't know much about the celebrations since I'm not catholic, and it doesn't have much to do with mourning either - but Felix, who grew up in a catholic house, has told me that they always went to the graveyard, thinking about the deads, and a priest would bless the graves. I was a bit confused about that story, but then I looked it up on wikipedia and found that those rites actually belong to All-Souls-Day (Allerseelen), which is the day after All-Saints-Day, but since that is not holiday and people can't stroll around the graveyard in the afternoon, they are often practised the day before. All-Souls-Day is a day to thik about our dead loved ones, and traditionally you are supposed to pray for them to shorten their time in the purgatory - that pre-hell place were souls are put when they are potentially okay to go to heaven, but have some sins to repent first. Things about catholics I don't really get...

Next, there is the Totensonntag or Ewigkeitssonntag (Sunday of the Dead/Sunday of Eternity), which is the protestant equialent to All-Souls-Day. It's the last sunday of the churchyear (see Advent, the next post in the holiday series). We don't bless graves, though, we just think about our dead in the church service, and visit graves in our own time. On both holidas, flowers and candles are often placed on the graves.

The last of the three is held a week before Totensonntag, and its the Volkstrauertag (People's Moruning Day) - it's kind of the German version of Memorial Day, to think about 'people that died in armed conflict or under opression'. There's not much of a celebration, naturally, and since we lack the patriotism that other countries have (see German Unity Day) noone makes a big deal out of it - there are speeches in TV and it's one of the 'silent days', where public celebration is forbidden, and that's about it.

So, these are the three pretty dark holidays of November - not much to say about them, but I still wanted to mention them for a somewhat complete picture. See you soon with a post about a much happier subject - Advent, the time before christmas!

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Strange German Holidays #9 - Martinstag

So I now I am waaaaay behind - not just with updating you on my progress, but also with commenting on all of your awesome posts, and some more things on top of that - but I do have reasons. Okay, reason number one is me being lazy, as usual, but there are other reasons too, I swear - good busy reasons, so don't you worry, but reasons still! Nevertheless, I need to at least make time to tell you about one of my favourite holidays (and hopefully about some other November holidays as well before the huge holiday period of pre-christmas starts). So, this favourite of mine is Martinstag, St. Martin's Day in English, or just St. Martin for short.

St. Martin lived in the fourth century AD in Hungary. He was born in 316 or 317 and was later to become the bishop of Tours, but in his youth, following his father's wishes, he became a soldier of the Roman Empire. St. Martin's Day is celebrated on the 11th of November, which is the day he was buried after he died in 397 (coincidently, this is also the day Fasnacht starts - see here).

Now as the story is told, one day in winter, Martin (or Martinus by his Roman name) came across a poor, half naked man, freezing to death in the cold. Now Martinus was a soldier, sitting high up on his horse - it would have been easy to overlook the poor guy, but he didn't. He wanted to help, but he didn't have anything on him but his weapons and his military uniform. So he took his sword, and cut his warm, bright red coat (which historically was probably white, but red sounds nice in the story) in half, offering one half to the guy on the ground.

Now in his honour, there are parades everywhere where children will march through the dark holding lanterns (often hand crafted - we used to make them all together in kindergarden, later my mum helped me, and the last one I personally made a few years ago can be seen here) and singing special songs about St Martin, his deeds, and lanterns. They also act out the scene with the beggar or, if they're lucky, there's an actual horseman to do that. At the end of the parade, children will get pretzels or special rolls (Martinsweck). I don't know if they do that everywhere, but when I was in kindergarden and elementary school, we would only get one pretzel for two kids, so we had to share it, just like Martin shared his coat. Here's a video I found on Youtube that gives quite a nice impression of a St Martin's parade:

Another custom that is quite common, but we personally never did this, is to have goose for dinner on St Martin's day. There are several stories behind this, but the one I heard as a child goes as follows:
When Martin had left the army, he started living as a kind of hermit, but he soon gained quite some followers for his good deeds. Eventually, the people of Tours wanted to make him their bishop, but, being humble as he was, Martin refused. The people insisted, and he fled, hiding in a geese-coop. But the geese, being, well, geese, quacked and chattered loudly, people found him, and he became the bishop anyways. So today, we eat them - you know, to thank them. Or maybe to punish them for giving poor Martin away.

Now there are many more traditons surounding this holiday (which isn't actually a day off by the way, you only get to celebrate in the evening) - for example, in some regions the kids go from door to door with their lanterns, like on Halloween - but these are the ones I have personally experienced and grew up with. It  was one of my favourites as a kid, because crafting the lanterns was always so much fun, there's a horse, and the songs are really beautiful - and today, I still like the lanterns, still like horses and still love the songs, but over everthing else I love this thought of sharing and caring. Some people are now trying dispose of Martin's Day because, being a Christian celebration and all, it's deemed inapropriate to celebrate in public school where children of other faith's are exposed to it, but I really hope they keep the tradition alive in one way or another :)

Wednesday 11 November 2015

November TUSAL

Things continue to get more quiet, which I like, and I continue to become more lazy, which I don't like so much - but maybe I just really need the rest. The weather (we had a few sunny days last week, but as a whole it's just getting darker and colder) and some health issues (that will hopefully be resolved soon) are doing their part as well...but the bright side is, this lazyness is keeping me at home as much as possible, which makes for nice stitching progress.

I think it's also time for November TUSAL, so let me start by sharing my ORT jar for the month:

For stitching, I was mostly focusing on My Day Off, and I stitched all of the blue sky...a tad boring, but also very relaxing. Now I'm done with the cross stitch and focusing on the back stitch this week.

I also knitted a bit...I'm almost through the first ball of yarn on the baby jacket, but I need to hurry up now since the baby has been born last week :)

I also did some origame this weekend...a coworker of ours is getting his PhD this friday, and I made some cranes for the games and decoration...they are quite tiny, each about an inch long, and here they are all chilling on my laptop:

So much for my creative for watching, there was a lot more of Supernatural (S8, E2-16), and what we missed in dramatic feeling that last few episodes is one hundred percent back now :) We also watched S2 E5 of Elementary and some Case Closed/Detectiv Conan (E125-139) and a movie Felix was very eager to see: Wiplash. It's about a jazz drummer and has some really impressive musical parts and since Felix is a drummer himself he loved it, but it really was quite nice :)

And for reading, there was Volume 9 of Case Closed, and I read Stardust. It was my first Neil Gaiman and after my girls all love his books, it was about time - I understand them now! I loved the movie, saw it before I even knew there was a book, and this is one of the rare cases were both are great - they changed, added and removed a few parts in the movie, but both versions are great. I'm sure I'll read something by him again soon :)

Sunday 1 November 2015

October WIPocalypse

While I'm still pretty busy, things seem to be calming down a bit. Work is still trying to be a pain in the behind, but I'm confident it will work out - either I can work around the issues on the current project, or admit defeat and start clean with a new one eventually. And our social-business has been reduced from travelling all over the country to visiting friends around town and doing stuff around the apartment, so basically, preparing for a good, long hibernation. Either way, I had some time to craft this week, and as I was fully focused on two pieces, I made some decent progress as well. But before we get to showing pretty pictures, let me first anwser this month's question for WIPocalypse: Are there any fibers or materials used in stitching that you’re nervous to try?  To be honest, I am nervous every time I try something new - it's not about certain materials specifically, it's a more general thing. I was extremly nervous trying silks for the first time as they are so expensive, but then it was much easier than I thought, so probably all the other stuff will as well :)

Now to my progress: I was working on My Day Off, and had a lot of fun with the vines, the last big confetti-region of the design. I wasn't to thrilled when I first looked at it, but then I just did one colour after the other and it went really smoothly. The tub-lady also has the rest of her legs and a lovely little cat now, so unless I forgot a few stitches in the vines-area (which is very well possible), I only have one colour and the sky left to stitch now (and some back stitching, of course).

The other thing I worked on was that baby jacket I mentioned last week, which caused so much confusion - it's for a friend of mine, not for myself, and it's about halfway finished now:

So, what else happened...lots of watching to warrant all that crafting, of course! We finished S7 of Supernatural (E19-23) and just started E8 today. I liked the S7, but somehow the end felt...less dramatic than it should have for everthing that happened, and now S8 starts with the same feeling for me...I hope I can shake it up after a few episodes. We also started S2 of Elementary yesterday (E1-4) - of course this feels rather slow now after that high-speed finale, but that was to be expected and I still like it. Last but not least, some more Case Closed (E116 - 125), of which I also read to more volumes (7 & 8).
I also finaly got around to playing The Vanishing of Ethan Carter last weekend, a short, but very sweet mystery-game with some interesting puzzles and unexpected story twists. Short, but very enjoyable and interesting :)