Friday, March 29, 2019

Cherry Blossoms and Japan in Hamburg

You might have seen images of the cherry blossom trees that blanket Washington, D.C. every spring. The 3,000 trees around the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, symbolizing the friendship between the two countries. Once the trees begin to bloom, the city is filled with festivals, celebratory events and a parade marking the occasion.

Although the District has an abundance of cherry blossom trees, Japan has gifted its prized sakura trees to several other countries, including Brazil, China, Turkey and Germany. And in Germany, the blossoming trees have been growing in popularity.

In Germany, the trees typically bloom a few weeks later than in the US, but nevertheless come with their own celebrations. Since 1968, the city of Hamburg - which is home to about 2,000 Japanese residents and 100 Japanese companies - has hosted an annual cherry blossom festival, complete with fireworks, a Japanese Kulturtag ("day of culture") and a bi-yearly pageant for a cherry blossom princess. In the 1960s, Hamburg received approximately 5,000 cherry blossom trees from Japan, which were planted along the city's riverbanks.

But even hundreds of years ago, Hamburg residents would flock across the Elbe River to the so-called “Altes Land” (“old land”) in the spring to admire the countless cherry blossom trees that blanketed the region. The Altes Land, which is the largest contiguous fruit-producing region in Northern Europe, has had cherry blossom trees for centuries before they were planted along the Hamburg’s riverbanks.

Other German cities host smaller cherry blossom festivals of their own. And in Bonn, the cherry blossoms have become a major tourist attraction in recent years. In the mid-1980s, the city decided to plant cherry blossom trees all throughout Bonn's Altstadt ("old town") in order to make it a nicer place to live. The plan worked: Bonn's Heerstraße is now one of the most attractive springtime destinations. Photographs depicting Bonn's tunnel of pink have become an internet sensation, bringing tourists from around the world to visit the city during peak bloom. Japan's gifts have brought beauty to cities across the world, including Germany!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany


Friday, March 15, 2019

St. Patrick in Germany

Many of you might be celebrating St. Patrick's Day by wearing green on Sunday - an Irish Tradition that is common in the United States. But even in Germany, St. Patrick's Day has become a widely celebrated event. While not all  of us would consider a stout a real beer, we’re happy to join the Irish in their beer-drinking celebrations on the biggest Irish party of the year!

The city of Munich hosts the largest annual St. Patrick's Day parade in continental Europe. Often times, 30,000 people or more show up for the parade at Odeonsplatz, which often includes the mayor. The parade includes bagpipe performances, Irish dances and performers in costume. Approximately 1,464 people in 63 different performance groups will participate in this year’s parade.

Irish people and St. Patrick's Day enthusiasts have been gathering for the Munich parade since 1996. And festivities are not limited to the parade: over the course of two days, there is also an Irish mass, an Irish cultural evening and gatherings involving Irish beer.

"So many Irish people live here in Munich and we Bavarians are always up for a party," Anthropologist Sandra Meinas told the Irish Times. But even further north, Germans celebrate the Irish holiday, with Berlin hosting a smaller parade and festival of its own.

Germany is home to a large Irish community; one estimate from 2013 claims there are around 11,000 Irish citizens who have declared German residency. So whether you are in the US or Germany this weekend, we're sure you will encounter more green than usual!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany




Sunday, March 3, 2019

Fasching and Fastnach

Germany is celebrating its so-called Fünfte Jahreszeit ("Fifth Season"), which is a reference to Carnival! The Fifth Season officially began on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., but in actuality, Carnival's events take place during one week in February with highlights including Fat Thursday and Rose Monday.

On February 28, Germans celebrated Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday), which marks the last Thursday before Lent. In the Rhineland - which is where Carnival is celebrated most intensely – work often ends before noon and people wear costumes out on the streets and in local bars.

But men who wear ties on Weiberfastnacht need to be prepared: one of Germany's unique Carnival traditions is that women cut off men's ties with scissors on Fat Thursday, leaving them with nothing but a stump. After all, Weiberfastnactht means "women's carnival night", and this ritual allows them to symbolically strip men of their statuses. Even at the German Embassy in Washington, some of our colleagues had to say goodbye to their ties on Thursday. Be sure to check out the video in TWIG to see what happened!

But the biggest celebration of Carnival is still to come next week on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) - a day marked with large parades and street parties. An estimated 1.5 million people watch the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne each year. Although Rose Monday celebrations take place in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, the region with the heaviest celebrations is the Rhineland, particularly in the major cities along the Rhine. The southern part of the Rhineland, however, has its own unique tradition called "Fastnacht", which comes with its own unique customs. Be sure to read about the history of Carnival in this week's edition of TWIG!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Germans and Humor

You might have heard the stereotype: Germans have no sense of humor. A 2007 survey of 30,000 people ranked Germany as the country with the worst sense of humor. We are not amused!

But perhaps German humor is simply misunderstood. Many German words - especially compound word constructions - are lost in translation, simply because there is no equivalent in other languages. Our "Word of the Week" series should help you understand words as complex as Backpfeifengesicht ("a face in need of slapping"), Honigkuchenpferd ("honey cake horse") and Kabelsalat ("cable salad"). The more you understand Germany's strangest and most unusual words, the more humor you will find in the language!

British comedian Stewart Lee agrees. In an op-ed he wrote for The Guardian, he said it took him a while to understand German humor - but once he did, he couldn't stop laughing. Much of English-language humor, he said, stems from words that have double or triple meanings, thereby creating humor that thrives on confusion. Since the German language has so many compound words and specificity, "it provides fully functional clarity".

As a result, Lee writes, the German "sense of humor is built on blunt, seemingly serious statements, which became funny simply because of their context."

He writes:

"I looked back over the time I had spent in Hannover and suddenly found situations that had seemed inexplicable, even offensive at the time, hilarious in retrospect. On my first night in Hannover I had gone out drinking with some young German actors. 'You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover,' one of them said. 'That is because you bombed them all.' At the time I found this shocking and embarrassing. Now it seems like the funniest thing you could possibly say to a nervous English visitor."

But despite the differences between English and German humor, there are plenty of German stand-up comedians, some of which perform their acts in English! Notable German comedians include classics Loriot and Karl Valentin and modern comedians Dieter Nuhr, Anke Engelke, Eckart von Hirschhausen, Oliver Welke and Tom Gerhardt.

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

https://www.germany.info/

Friday, February 8, 2019

Kickoff of the Berlinale

The 69th Berlin International Film Festival (known as the „Berlinale“) kicked off this week, beginning an 11-day program that will include hundreds of films and film screenings. As one of the largest public film festivals in the world, the Berlinale attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all around the world, including many celebrities.
This year, there are 17 films competing for the famous Golden and Silver Bear awards, 16 of which are world premieres.  This year’s spotlight will be on female directors; in fact, 40 percent of all its competing films were directed by women, setting an unprecedented record for such a major film festival. And this year’s Berlinale jury president is also a woman: Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche  will head the 69th Berlin International Jury, which will decide who receives the Golden and Silver Bears. This weekend, Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director, will sign a pledge that “calls festivals to commit to gender parity in its management and requires data transparency surrounding film submissions and programming committees,” Deutsche Welle reports. At a time when Germany is celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage, this festival is a welcome showcase of female accomplishments in the creative arts.
The Berlinale was founded in West Berlin in 1951 – at the beginning of the Cold War – as a “showcase of the free world”, according to the event organizers. The very first festival was opened with Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rebecca, which was a romantic psychological thriller that has won two Academy Awards. While the Berlinale often showcases highly anticipated films and A-list celebrities, it also brings new talent to the stage, sometimes kickstarting the careers of young filmmakers.
This year’s festival runs from February 7 to 17.
Nicole Glass
Editor, The Week in Germany

www.berlinale.de/en/HomePage.html

Zazzle


Make a personalized gift at Zazzle.