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Germany’s Father’s Day … A far cry from the US Version.

06/06/2011

Today is Monday, 06 June, 2011.  I’m just coming off a holiday weekend and am recovering just a bit.Thursday was Ascension Day, Father’s Day, Man’s Day, Männertag, or Herrentag, depending on which part of Germany one comes from and has little in common with the “Father’s Day” to which I’m accustomed in the US.

Always held 39 days after Easter, falling on a Thursday this year gave most Germans a four-day weekend.(Like in the US, many people opt to take Friday off as well when a holiday falls on a Thursday.)

Originating in the Middle Ages to commemorate the Christian (especially Catholic I think… but am not sure) belief that Christ rose to heaven on the 40th day of Easter.By the 19th century the holiday had “evolved” in Germany as a “Sauftag” (drinking day) for men, regardless of their fatherhood status.

The day is still observed as a religious holiday, so most Germans get the day off and many churches offer services.But by far, it’s more of a party day (especially for men) than anything else.

Certainly not all German men get (and please excuse my French here) shit-faced-drunk on this day, but there are a lot who do.Men traditionally venture into the woods with a decorated wooden cart full of beer and food, or they might choose to bike ride through the countryside.

Traditionally, the “women folk” stay home, but this has changed a lot in recent years, I am told.

This was my first experience with the holiday. I joined my cousin and three friends (one female) for a ‘starter beer’, then on to a bike ride from the North-east Berlin Hönow area, through the country-side and woods to Altlandsberg.

Here we have our “starter beer” before beginning our ride:

Then we hit the road (bike path through the woods) on our way to Altlandsberg:

Altlandsberg was interesting as the city tower had a nesting pair of storks at the top (the small town’s claim to fame):

.

Also in Altlandsberg, we enjoyed a couple of beers and “white asparagus cake” which was topped with a hollandaise sauce. The sauce is normal as a topping for white asparagus, but I had never previously eaten asparagus in a cake (more like a cobbler). The “Foodies” among you out there may be familiar with this treat, but it was a pleasant new experience for me. (I apologize for having no photo of the cake… I ate it too quickly.)

After the beer break there, we rode south to Eggersdorf where we had a couple more beers (of course) at an outdoor Männertag celebration:

While mainly consisting of men, there were a good number of women and even children on the “fahrradwege” (bike paths) the entire distance as well.

The round trip bike ride was probably only about twenty miles, but that was enough given that we were doing a little eating and beer drinking along the way.

Probably the single thing that jumped out at me the most was that people on the bike path and streets were actually quite friendly toward each other, good naturedly ringing their bike bells at each other while passing by as a “mock warning”… but always with smiles on their faces.

I only point that out as an outside observer who has noticed many Germans (particularly the Berliners) seem to exhibit a lot of hostility toward each other on a day-to-day basis.The good natured spirit of the day was a welcomed change from what I normally see.(I can’t imagine the beer had anything to do with that… wink.)

Naturally this is only one guy’s observation of one Männertag celebration in Germany.Were you to participate in this holiday yourself, your “mileage might vary.”

But what a fun day it was! As an American, I couldn’t help but think of how this holiday would be so politically incorrect in the US on so many levels. I think we could stand to loosen up a bit.

Don’t forget, this was only on Thursday. The entire weekend that followed was a festive weekend for Germany. There were many local events (not related to “Father’s Day”) for the remainder of the weekend, so everyone had the chance to “play”.

Bis zum nächsten Mal! (Until next time…)

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