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!


Heather said...

Good to know. We don't have silent days in America (as far as I know) we usually just have a moment of silence.

Tiffstitch said...

Interesting, thank you for the info on these days. Definitely a different kind of thing.

Carla - Alaska Wolf Pack said...

With my family, as you know, we celebrate All Saints Day with our very own tradition. It is interesting to me that more emphasis isn't given to Volkstrauertag as it seems to symbolize that desire to heal a country sitting in it's own shame. A "Silent Day" does seem appropriate for healing but is sadly seen as a horrible reminder instead. I can only hope that your generation are able to get that healing going so Germany can come out of the cave so to speak and join us all in the sunshine!