Category Archives: History

Giessen Emigration Society

In July of 1833, the organizers of those that became Members of the Giessen Emigration Society as found on the Ship Arrival Lists, Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius published the Call and Declaration on the subject of mass emigration from Germany to the North American free states. They began with

“We the undersigned, together with many of our most respected friends and fellow citizens, have decided to leave Germany and to seek a new homeland in the states of North America. This intention awoke in us once we had become convinced that, as far as we are concerned, conditions in Germany, neither now nor in the future will satisfy the demands that we as persons and citizens must make of life for ourselves or our children. This is since we have become aware that only a life such as is possible in the free states of North America can suffice for us and our children. The political situation of that growing state is well known to those who are informed. Lands, especially in the almost immeasurable regions west of the Mississippi, have opened only in the most recent times by the perfection of the means of transportation, lands with which almost non on earth may be compared for richness and the beauty of nature. Swiftly the primeval forests are being cleared, swiftly arise country estates and cities, and the great waters permit the liveliest commerce with all parts of the earth.  It is our idea that the better part of the many Germans who have decided to emigrate should settle as a group, united as a whole in keeping with the purified and presently existing political form and received into the great federation of states, so that in this way the survival of German customs, language, etc., should be secured, so that a free and popular form of life could be created. This is our idea, whose execution appears grandiose and desirable, appears to us to be possible and not too difficult.”

This treatise went on to provide the major reasons for the creation of their society, their plan and their goals. After its’ conclusion it was signed by the organizers:

Paul Follenius, Court Advocate in Giessen and Friedrich Münch, Grand Ducal Hessian Pastor at Nieder-Gemünden (Alsfeld District)

To read a translation of the Call and Declaration

To see the ship arrival lists

Members of the Giessen Emigration Society

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Karneval – The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season begins today!! After the 12 days of Christmas, what’s next? winter sets in with its frigid fury. Trying to hibernate like a Polar Bear will only last so long. Then you remember that back on November 11th, at the 11th hour, that the Council of Eleven announced their plans for the Karneval Season! While suspended for Advent, which was a great distraction, has ended with the Three Kings visit on January 6th, the Twelth Day of Christmas. Now what? It won’t be long and Lent will begin in preparation for Easter. Germans and German-Americans begin to plan one big week of Karneval while they can. The next four weeks build in anticipation! If you are a Missouri German and want to enjoy Karneval in 2018 visit http://stl4stuttgart.com/

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’s 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 began back  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,

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 and tickets to the highlight of the Karneval Season in St. Louis.

SLSSC-Winterball-Karneval-1

 

 

Weihnachtsmann

Today he is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white bearded man—sometimes with glasses—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children. This image became popular in the United States in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In 1821, the book A New-year’s present, to the little ones from five to twelve was published

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Thomas Nast

in New York. It contained an anonymous poem describing Santeclaus on a reindeer sleigh, bringing presents to children. Some modern ideas of Santa Claus grew after the anonymous publication of the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known today as “The Night Before Christmas”) in the  Sentinel on 23 December 1823 by Thomas Nast.

Clement Clarke Moore later claimed authorship, though some scholars contest persuasively that Henry Livingston, Jr. (who died nine years before Moore’s claim) was the author. St. Nick is described as being “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly”, that “shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly”, in spite of which the “miniature sleigh” and “tiny reindeer” still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer  were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen).

By 1845 ‘Kris Kringle’ was a common variant of Santa in parts of the U.S. A magazine article from 1853, describing American Christmas customs , refers to children hanging up their stockings on Christmas Eve for ‘a fabulous personage’ whose name varies: in Pennsylvania he is usually called ‘Krishkinkle’ but in New York he is ‘St. Nicholas’ or ‘Santa Claus’. The author quotes Moore’s poem in its entirety, saying that its descriptions apply to Krishkinkle too

From The German Way: Nikolaustag – 6. Dezember
On the night of December 5 (in some places, the evening of Dec. 6), in small communities

Weihnachtsman
Photo by James Martin

in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas, who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), he only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany). As early as 1555, St. Nicholas brought gifts on Dec. 6, the only “Christmas” gift-giving time during the Middle Ages, and Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus was a more ominous figure. In Alpine Europe Krampus is still a scary, devil-like figure. The custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community.

Pelznickel is the fur-clad Santa of the Palatinate (Pfalz) in northwestern Germany along the Rhine, the Saarland, and the Odenwald region of Baden-Württemberg. The German-American Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was born in Landau in der Pfalz (not the Bavarian Landau). It is said that he borrowed at least a couple of features from the Palatine Pelznickel he knew as a child in creating the image of the American Santa Claus—the fur trim and boots. In some North American German communities Pelznickel became “Belsnickle.” (The literal translation of Pelznickel is “fur-Nicholas.”) The Odenwald Pelznickel is a bedraggled character who wears a long coat, boots, and a big floppy hat. He carries a sack full of apples and nuts that he gives to the children. In various areas of the Odenwald, Pelznickel also goes by the names of Benznickel, Strohnickel, and Storrnickel.

Der Weihnachtsmann is the name for Santa Claus or Father Christmas in most of Germany today. The term used to be confined mostly to the northern and mostly Protestant areas of Germany, but has spread across the country in recent years. Around Christmastime in Berlin, Hamburg, or Frankfurt, you’ll see Weihnachtsmänner on the street or at parties in their red and white costumes, looking a lot like an American Santa Claus. You can even rent a Weihnachtsmann in most larger German cities.

The term “Weihnachtsmann” is a very generic German term for Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. The German Weihnachtsmann is a fairly recent Christmas tradition having little if any religious or folkloric background. In fact, the secular Weihnachtsmann only dates back to around the mid-19th century. As early as 1835, Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the words to “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann” — still a popular German Christmas carol. The first image depicting a bearded Weihnachtsmann in a hooded, fur mantle was a woodcut (Holzschnitt) by the Austrian painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871). Von Schwind’s first 1825 drawing was entitled “Herr Winter.” A second woodcut series in 1847 bore the title “Weihnachtsmann” and even showed him carrying a Christmas tree, but still had little resemblance to the modern Weihnachtsmann. Over the years, the Weihnachtsmann became a rough mixture of St. Nicholas and Knecht Ruprecht. A 1932 survey found that German children were split about evenly along regional lines between believing in either the Weihnachtsmann or the Christkind. But today a similar survey would show the Weihnachtsmann winning out in almost all of Germany.

For all the children young and old…No matter what you call him… Just Remember…

BELIEVE!