Category Archives: Heritage and Culture

Bossel in Bay

Join us in Bay. Tour the historic Bay Mercantile Store and meet others with the help of the very social game of Bossel on Sunday, November 5, 2017 from 12 noon to 4 pm. What is Bossel? It is played by Germans who live in the northwest of Germany at the Northern Sea. It is very popular there and the people of East Frisia dream of Bossel becoming an Olympic sport in the very distant future. The game is played on small streets with round Bossel balls. We will have four teams Red, Blue, Yellow and Black as we have four balls. The distance from start to end is about one mile. The goal is to be the team that reaches the end, with the fewest number of throws. Each throw ends and is counted from the point where the Bossel ball comes to a standstill on the street. Join one of the Bossel ball teams, all ages, sexes, incomes, and hair colors are welcome! Or simply accompany the players. German refreshments are provided during the game to protect participants, both mentally and physically, against the chill of a November day in Missouri! Warm-up after Bossel, enjoy bread & soup and an Award Ceremony for the Missourian Bossel Heroes.
Our Meeting point is the former Bay Mercantile in Bay, located on County Route K, just south of the intersection with Fowler Road. Bay is south of Hermann Missouri in the very heart of Gasconade County.  Also that day you can Tour the Bay Mercantile and residence currently in the state of renovation. View numerous historical artifacts and learn more about the process of historic preservation. Google Maps for Bay Missouri

This day is planned in memory of Scott Ruffner, who passed away unexpectedly in May of this year. We will gather to celebrate what would have been his 67th birthday on November 5 in the Bay Mercantile store. It was Scott’s dream to establish a museum about Bay in the former Bay Mercantile and post office building, which he bought for this purpose. He hoped to recruit both volunteers and funding to make this a reality. This restoration project continues with support from his friends and family!
Join us in Bay.

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Peter Roloff playing Bossel
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Karneval is the Fifth Season

Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht

There are different words in German for the Carnival or “Mardi Gras” Season: KarnevalFasching and Fastnacht. Although all three refer to the same pre-Lenten holiday season,  they each reflect the regional customs and traditions in Germany. Missouri Germans have immigrated from all over Germany for the past 175 years. The Fifth Season in St. Louis is most commonly referred to as Karneval and begins on the 11th of November !

In Germany Karneval is the word used for the Rhenish (Rhineland) version of carnival in northwest Germany (except in Mainz), while the word Fasching refers to the similar celebration in southern Germany and Austria. The term Fasching is also seen and heard in Berlin and other parts of northern Germany. Fastnacht, mostly used in Swabia and carnival-parade-masksSwitzerland, is also used in the northern city of Mainz. However, that still does not mean that these words are interchangeable. Karneval, is a more modern (17th century), Latin-based word borrowed from French and Italian. The true origin of the word is uncertain. The German word used to be written with a C rather than today’s K-spelling.

The Carnevale in medieval Venice is one of the earliest documented carnival celebrations in the world. It featured still-popular traditions, including carnival carnival-parade-happygirls1parades, masks and masquerade balls. Gradually the Italian Carnevale customs spread north to other Catholic European countries, including France. From France it spread to the German Rhineland and, through colonization, even to North America (Mardi Gras). The word Fasching dates back to the 13th century and is carnival-parade-costumesderived from the Germanic word vaschanc or vaschang, in modern German: Fastenschank refers to the last serving of alcoholic beverages before Lent. In the 19th Century the 40-day Lenten period of fasting was strictly observed. People refrained from drinking alcohol or eating meat, milk products and eggs. The English word “fast” (to refrain from eating) is related to German fasten. And according to GermanWay.com “Fastnacht, refers to the Swabian-Alemannic carnival, which differs in some ways from Fasching and Karneval, and is found in Baden-Württemberg, Franconia (northern Bavaria), Hesse and much of Switzerland. Although this word looks like it comes from the German for the “eve of Lent,” in fact it is based on the Old German word fasen (“to be foolish, silly, wild”). Thus the word, sometimes spelled Fasnacht (without the t) actually means something like “night of being wild and foolish.” 

In Germany parades are a big part of the celebration. The big day for Karneval is the Rose carnival-parade-bandMonday parade, whereas the big Fasching parades are usually the day before, on Carnival Sunday. But according to some sources, one of Germany’s biggest carnival parades takes place in the northern German city of Braunschweig… “Schoduvel” (“scaring away the devil”), …which dates back to 1293.

Karneval begins on November 11th
Many carnival organizations traditionally begin their official activities on November 11. Then it is suspended for Advent… and reconvenes in January. It is only following the Christmas and New Year’s season that carnival preparation really gets underway.

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St. Louis Stuttgart Sister Cities  Winter Ball

Organizations begin planning carnival balls and building floats. If there are any events on November 11, they are brief and only serve as a mini pre-carnival. Very little related to carnival happens between November 12 and January 5. No matter the name, almost all carnival observances end at midnight on Shrove Tuesday. The next day, Ash Wednesday, is the official start of Lent, even if very few people today actually fast until Easter. Historically, the purpose of carnival was to live it up before the start of Lent and its 40 days of gustatory sacrifice.

 

Karneval in the United States

From GermanWay.com: “There are a few places in the USA noted for their carnival observances. The most famous, of course, is New Orleans and its big Mardi Gras. That has a lot to do with the French influence in Louisiana (which was named for the French king Louis XIV). Lafayette,

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St. Louis Stuttgart Sister Cities Winter Ball

Louisiana also has its own Mardi Gras, as do Baton Rouge and several other Louisiana towns. There are good-sized carnival celebrations in Mobile, Alabama (since 1703!); Fredericksburg and Galveston, Texas; Biloxi, Mississippi and in Pensacola, Florida (dating from 1874). The Mardi Gras celebration in St. Louis, Missouri is a relatively recent development that only began in the 1980s. What began as a private party at a bar has now become a rather large event with corporate sponsors.”  See STL4Stuttgart.com for more information or to attend their event on 11.11 to start your Fifth Season in St Louis, where you will also meet the new Prince and Princess chosen to rule over this Season’s events. 

 

 

German Christmas Traditions

weihnMany of our American German Christmas Traditions came to this country with our emigrant ancestors!  Perhaps some have become so traditional that we no longer even realize that they came from Germany originally. How many of these do you and your family enjoy?

From St. Nikolaus to Santa 

Even some American Christmas words come from German. Kris Kringle is a corruption of Christkindl (“Christ Child” — It is theChristkindl who brings gifts on Christmas Eve in Germany, not Santa!) And it was the German-American political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) who gave us the modern image of Santa Claus in the 1860s. (Nast was born in Germany and came to the US with his family as a young boy.) His Christmas illustrations for Harper’s Weekly were later published in book form and, along with Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” helped establish our “jolly old elf” image of Santa — not to be confused with St. Nikolaus  (St. Nicholas). His day, Nikolaustag, is on December 6.

The Historic, Real St. Nicholas
Across the German-speaking region of Europe there are many kinds of Santa Clauses with many different names. Despite their many names, they are all basically the same mythic character. But few of them have anything to do with thereal Saint Nicholas – Sankt Nikolaus Heilige Nikolaus who was probably born around A.D. 245 in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey. Very little solid historical evidence exists for the man who later became the Bishop of Myra and the patron saint of children, sailors, students, teachers, and merchants. He is credited with several miracles and his feast day is December 6, which is the main reason he is connected with Christmas. In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland,  Pelznickel  brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25. Nowadays, St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 is a preliminary round for Christmas.

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Santa Claus (St. Nick), as drawn by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Although Austria is mostly Catholic, Germany is almost evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics (along with some minority religions). So in Germany there are both Catholic (katholisch) and Protestant (evangelisch) Christmas customs. When Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, came along, he wanted to get rid of the Catholic elements of Christmas. To replace Sankt Nikolaus (Protestants don’t emphasize saints!), Luther introduced der Heilige Christ (later called das Christkindl), an angel-like Christ Child, to bring Christmas gifts and reduce the importance of Saint Nicholas. Later this Christkindlfigure would be replaced by der Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) in Protestant regions and even cross the Atlantic, where Christkindl mutated into the English term “Kris Kringle.” Ironically, in the present day the originally Protestant Christkindl is now predominant in the Catholic regions of Germany (Bavaria) and Switzerland, as well as in Austria.

From ChristkindlMarkts to Christmas Markets

One colorful German Christmas tradition has found its way to parts of North America and some other regions of the world: the German christmas-in-germany-berlinChristmas market. Beginning in mid or late November, in almost any German city of any size, one or more Christmas markets will pop up on the local square and often in several other locations. These Christmas fairs – offering warm drinks, roasted chestnuts, and local crafts – usually continue through the four December weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Sometimes called a Christkindlmarkt, these special markets are an integral part of the Christmas season in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

From Tannenbaum to Christmas Tree

The German religious reformer Martin Luther  (1483-1546) is often credited with starting the Christmas tree custom, but the first appearance of a Tannenbaum was recorded in Germany many years urlafter Luther’s death. It was in 1605 in Strasbourg in Alsace, then in Germany, that a chronicler wrote (in old German): “Auff Weihenachten richtett man Dahnnenbäum zu Strasburg in den Stuben auff…” (“At Christmas they set up Christmas trees in Strasbourg in their rooms…”). But it is likely that the custom dates to around 1550 since there were many Christmas Carols published then that referred to the Tannenbaum. By the 19th Century the custom had spread across, Germany and Europe, including the United States. During the American Revolution, Hessian soldiers would cut a small evergreen in the woods and erect a Tannenbaum near their tent to remind them of the homeland. A tradition adopted by the colonists. By the early 1800s, a British writer shared how she enjoyed the beautiful custom in the home of German teacher Karl Follen, while visiting Boston. It was the commoners that brought the custom the Tannenbaum or Weihnachtsbaum to America.

From Weihnachtslieder to Christmas Carols

The world’s most popular Christmas carol,  Stille Nacht or Silent Night  came from Austria.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Silent night, holy night
All is sleeping, alone watches
Only the close, most holy couple.
Blessed boy in curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds just informed
By the angels’ hallelujah,
It rings out far and wide:
Christ the Savior is here!
Christ the Savior is here!
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
– – –
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, oh how laughs
Love out of your divine mouth,
Because now the hour of salvation
strikes for us.
Christ, in Thy birth!
Christ, in Thy birth!

Most Americans know the German classic  O Tannenbaum as Oh Christmas Tree.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!
You’re green not only
in the summertime,
No, also in winter when it snows.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How loyal are your leaves/needles!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
You can please me very much!
How often has not at Christmastime
A tree like you given me such joy!
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree,
You can please me very much!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Dein Kleid will mich
was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft
zu jeder Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Das soll dein Kleid
mich lehren.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
Your dress wants to
teach me something:
Your hope and durability
Provide comfort and strength
at any time.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
That’s what your dress should
teach me.