Category Archives: German Festivals

Happy First of December! Countdown to Christmas has officially started!

The story of the Advent Calendar

Germans love Christmas. In fact, for Germans, it’s the most important holiday of the year!

Many traditions help us Germans prepare for and enjoy the Christmas season to the fullest, like Saint Nicholas Day on Dec 6th or the four Sundays of Advent, Christmas cookies and much more.

One tradition, however, stands out since it is equally loved by children and adults. The Advent Calendar!

Who doesn’t like a countdown to a highly anticipated event?

Apparently many don’t want to miss it. In places all around the world, one can now find these magic Advent Calendars that hide chocolates or little toys behind their secret doors. Even beer calendars are available or calendars filled with a variety of liquor filled chocolates. The possibilities seem endless…

In the old days, just a beautiful little picture behind a door would make kids happy. Today some Advent Calendars made it even online, published by companies that discovered it as another tool to engage customers.

The first Advent Calendar originated in Germany in 1904 when Gerhard Lang published a simple one as an insert in a newspaper in Stuttgart. It was a raving success! So Lang decided to print a new one every year. The designs became more and more elaborate from calendars that worked like a dial to calendar houses filled with chocolates to even a calendar in Braille for the blind.

But how did he get the idea to make a calendar that would count down the days to Christmas in the first place?

The idea of counting down to Christmas Eve already existed in different ways. Some families used to mark the days to Christmas with chalk on their doors, in other families children were putting one piece of hay every day into a manger in which Baby Jesus would be laid on Christmas Eve.

Gerhard Lange’s mother however handcrafted a calendar for his then little son that would be filled with a little meringue for every day in December leading up to Christmas Eve. That caused a lasting impression and, as an adult, inspired Gerhard Lange to expand on his mother’s idea of an Advent Calendar.

The ‘modern’ Advent Calendar was born and started out to conquer the world in all kinds of variations!

Wir wünschen eine schöne Vorweihnachtszeit!  

Happy Holiday Season!

Images: Pixabay.com


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Lantern Parades in California celebrating Saint Martin

On November 11, Germany traditionally celebrates Saint Martin’s Day. Originally a Catholic holiday to honor the kind Roman soldier, who shared his cloak with a beggar on a freezing winter night, Saint Martin’s Day quickly became a holiday loved by everyone for its festive lantern parades.
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Many German schools and German communities here in California carry on this beloved tradition and invite to their own version of a lantern parade.
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In the following, please find a collection of lantern parades happening in Southern and Northen California.

GPSSD – German Pacific School of San Diego

Sunday, November 5th  
Time: 3:30pm – 6:00pm 
Where: Mission Bay Park, Crown Point North,  3700 Corona Oriente Rd San Diego, CA 92109
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Join GPSSD for a Lantern Fest with BBQ and bonfire at Crowne Point Park in Pacific Beach (North Parking Lot). Mission Bay Park
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The younger kids are invited to go on a traditional lantern walk (5:30pm!!) and sing lantern songs (Laternenlieder).
The older students and everyone, who doesn’t want to go on the walk can just hang out at the fire or at the beach.
The GPSSD Lanternfest has traditionally been a fun and special event and a great opportunity to meet new families. Bring your beach chairs and a dish to share for our half-potluck.
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Contact: germanpacificschool@gmail.com, ph: (858) 461-9118


GermanSchoolCampus – Old World Huntington Beach

Saturday, November 18th  
Time: 4:00 – 7:30pm 
Where: Old World Huntington Beach, 7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647
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German School campus and Old World Huntington Beach invite to a festive Lantern Parade around the little village of Old World to celebrate the story of Saint Martin.

Registration is from 4 pm – 5:30 pm during which hot chocolate, coffee and cake and also “Weckmännchen”, a traditional pastry, will be available for purchase.  A short performance, telling the story of Saint Martin, will be followed by the lantern parade starting at 6:15 pm. (Lanterns available for purchase)

This is a festive family event. Stay on after for the lantern contest results and to celebrate the season with Old World’s goulash soup and hot cider.

Contact: GermanSchool campus at (949)285-0829


German American School Association ( GASA)

Saturday, Nov. 18 
Time: 5pm – 7pm
Where: Christus Kirche (First German Methodist Church), 556 W Glenoaks Blvd, Glendale, CA 91202
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GASA Lanternfest: GASA teachers and students of GASA Kinderland in Glendale and of the Northridge School will participate in the annual lantern parade at the Christus Kirche (First German United Methodist Church) in Glendale.
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Contact: GASA , Ph: (562) 693-0223

Thursday, Nov. 9th
Time: 6 pm – 8 pm
Where: 475 Pope Street, Menlo Park, California 94025
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Join Alto School for a traditional German St. Martin’s lantern parade, sing-a-long and a shadow theatre performance about the legend of St. Martin. Don’t forget to bring your lantern. The event is organized by the Alto preschool and elementary school.
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Contact: Alto International, Ph: (650) 324-8617

Laternenfest at Bay Area Kinderstube in Albany
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Saturday, November 11  
Time: 4:00 – 7:00pm 
Where:  842 Key Route Boulevard, Albany, CA 94706
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Join us and celebrate the annual German tradition of St. Martin’s Day with Bay Area Kinderstube.

We welcome the season with St. Martin’s Day songs and play, performed by our preschoolers, followed by a magical lantern-procession around the neighborhood – open for everyone to join. Enjoy German staples like Bratwurst, baked goods, mulled wine and much more in a festive atmosphere.

For more information, to purchase admission and food tickets, and to bid on fantastic items online, visit www.kinderstube.org/laternenfest
 
Contact: BAKS Kinderstube, Ph: 510-525-3105

German International School Silicon Valley (GISSV) 

Sunday, Nov 12
Time: 2-6pm
Where: 4 + 5 Funston Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129
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The Laternenfest at SF Campus of GISSV started celebrating the wonderful tradition of the lantern parades with the public 3 years ago with their own version and called it Laternenfest. It is an event that our students and community look forward to every year! Friends and the larger Bay Area community are invited to join in the merriment!
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Our event on Sunday, Nov 12  will again offer Lantern making, kids games, face painting and a few special performances by GISSV SF students. And look out for the German food truck and bake sale! It all end ends with an enchanting lantern-lit walk through the Presidio.
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Contact: GISSV SF, Ph: (650) 254-0748

 


German Language School of Marin 

Saturday, Nov 11th
Time: 5:30pm
Where:  2 Locations: Santa Rosa & Novato (see below)
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Laternenfest in Novato and Santa Rosa! Lantern Festival, Music Parade, and Refreshments! For the lantern parade, we’ll meet at the locations below to light our lanterns (with flameless candles) before beginning our parade. Afterwards, we will have hot chocolate and Weckmänner (jumbo bread men) available if desired. The parade is FREE! Only $5 per person if you would like Weckmänner afterward. Everyone is welcome, so bring friends!

In Novato
We will meet on Saturday, November 11 at 5:30pm at Pioneer Park in Novato (map it). Help us plan! Please RSVP to Carolyn Bopp or let us know during school on Saturday if you would like to join us and would like Weckmänner.

In Santa Rosa
We will meet on Saturday, November 11 at 5:30pm at our school campus in Santa Rosa (map it). Please RSVP to Christine Campbell by email or let us know during school on Saturday if you would like to join us and would like Weckmänner.


German American School Palo Alto (GASPA)

Saturday, November 11th  
Time: 5:30 – 8:00pm 
Where: Alto International School Campus (475 Pope Str. Menlo Park)

(Please RSVP)

Join GASPA for its annual St. Martin’s Laternenumzug at the Campus of Alto International School in Menlo Park. The event will start with a shadow play about the legend of St. Martin as well as introduce the traditional lantern songs. Following the play, everyone is invited to join for a walk through the neighborhood with their lit lanterns while singing songs. The parade will end with a final song together in a candlelight circle.

There will be refreshments, which include Martinsmännchen, Frankfurter Sausages, Pretzels, and Hot Cider will be available for sale before and after the parade.

Contact: GASPA, Ph: (650) 520-2346


Tivoli Rainbow Preschool in Los Angeles

Wednesday, November 15th
Lantern parade – More Information to follow. Please contact the school. Ph: (310)301.9147
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Credits: Lantern Image created by Pia Elbe

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Looking back at the 2017 Oktoberfest in Munich – A Report in Pictures

Auf Wiedersehen Oktoberfest

– A photo of Matthias-Pschorr Strasse from the Bavaria Statue –

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Greetings from the Wiesn!   For more than two hundred years, the Oktoberfest has been the highlight of Munich’s calendar, and is considered the world’s largest folk festival.  This year, the weather has been very cooperative so far, with mostly fair weather greeting the estimated three million visitors to the Theresienwiese in just the first week and a half.  By the end of the 18 days, an estimated 6.2 million visitors enjoyed the Wiesn.

Typical food offerings like Hendl, Brezn, and Spätzle have been abundant, and a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes are also available in many tents.  In the Ochsenbraterei, sixty (60) Ox were already cooked and served by the Fest midpoint (in comparison to 55 by the same time last year), and by the end of the Fest, 127 had been served!

This was my second time auf die Wiesn;  I was out here last year for the marriage of two dear friends, and their celebration coincided with Oktoberfest, so it was practically a requirement that we make a trip to the Wiesn part of my visit.  I immediately knew that I’d be returning again and again, and that I would want to share my experience with others.

A quick tour of the perimeter to get a feel for the Stimmung of the fest revealed the usual revelry and an abundance of souvenirs including the famed Gingerbread Hearts (Lebkuchenherzen).

– One of the more robust offerings of Lebkuchenherzen –
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We then made our way to the Ochsenbraterei for lunch and a Maß, and while the Ochsenbraterei is best known for its meat offerings, there were substantial vegetarian offerings noted on the menu.

– The front entrance to the famed Ochsenbraterei –
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– Interior of the Ochsenbraterei, which seats nearly 6000 people (with another 1600 outside seats) –
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– Rows of empty mugs await filling –
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– Hungry fest-goers are served –
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Our next stop was the Löwenbräu Festzelt, where we enjoyed a bit more food and a change in atmosphere.  Even at 5pm, the mood in the tent was starting to change, but it was almost on cue at 6pm, when the tent felt more crowded, and more and more people began singing and dancing on the benches.  The “Oktoberfest-Barometer” (available via the official Oktoberfest App) can predict when the Wiesn might be busiest, and the App can also inform on how full various tents are.  The App can be downloaded from http://www.muenchen.de/app .

– The front entrance of the Löwenbrau-Festzelt, which seats 5700 inside and another 2800 outside) –
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 -The interior of the Löwenbräu-Festzelt –
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– A tray of food headed to hungry fest-goers at the Löwenbrau-Festzelt –
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 – Traditional breads, including the giant Breze –
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– Festgoers in Tracht in the Löwenbräu-Festzelt –
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–  The servers working hard to keep everyone happy, with just a few of the estimated 7.5 Million Maß served –
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One of the treats this year was the Oide Wiesn – a traditional and historical corner of the Wiesn.  An estimated 480,000 visitors enjoyed this look back into history as well as the constant cultural performances in the Festzelt Tradition like partnerdances, Schuhplattler Dances, and the Whip cracking (Goasslschnalzer).

– Festzelt Tradition, with a capacity of 5000 inside (and an additional 2700 outside) features a large dance floor for performances –
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– Festzelt Tradition offered more traditional feel and plenty of Tracht –
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– The Alphorn performance was a crowd favorite –
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This year’s Fest ended on 03 October 2017, and I’m already looking forward to kicking off next year’s event on Saturday, 15 October 2018.  For more information about Oktoberfest, you can visit the official site at http://www.oktoberfest.eu.

Until then, Prost!

All Images: Copyright ©2017 http://www.splitsecondimaging.com

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Christopher Chin is an accomplished underwater videographer and writer who has traveled extensively and speaks several languages. He studied German at the University of California, Berkeley, and quickly fell in love with the German language, culture and people. In early 2006, Christopher co-founded The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), and currently serves as its Executive Director.

Christopher is an internationally recognized expert in ocean policy and conservation issues, and has provided valuable and persuasive testimony to various governing and legislative bodies in the U.S. and in Canada, and he has had the privilege of addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on two separate occasions.

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October 3rd, Germany celebrates “Tag der Deutschen Einheit” – The German National Day

Today Germany celebrates its National Day, the “Tag der deutschen Einheit” !

Today Germany commemorates the reunification of Germany. After WW II Germany got divided into East and West Germany. A fortified wall made sure that interaction between these two Germanys was limited and especially controlled .

Many Germans never believed that they would ever witness a unified Germany again, but November 9th, 1989 should catch them by surprise.

On this fateful day in history the East German government declared that all East Germans were free to go to the West and visit West Germany and West Berlin. Germany and the world went wild! Impactful, dramatic images of that day still captivate us today.

So why don’t we celebrate our German National Day on November 9th after all?

November 9th happens to be a day for a variety of  historical events in Germany, and not all were such that they should be honored or remembered positively on a day that shall celebrate the National day of Germany .

November 9th was the day on which the German republic was proclaimed in 1918, and it was also a November 9th when Hitler’s first coup in 1923 was defeated. This ominous date however also marks the anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in 1938, the day of the first large-scale Nazi-led pogroms against Jews.

November 9th therefore did not seem an appropriate date for the German National Day.

October 3rd was chosen instead since this was the day in 1990 when the formal reunification took place.

October 3rd replaced the date of June 17, which used to be the date for “The Day of German Unity” during the days of the BRD ( The Federal Republic of Germany).

Images: Pixabay.com

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Oktoberfest in Germany Versus California

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OKTOBERFEST IN GERMANY VERSUS CALIFORNIA

For many Germans, the most wonderful time of the year is back – the German Oktoberfest.  For two weeks, from September 16th till October 3rd, people from all over the world will be visiting the most well-known German festival in Munich.  From 1810, when the Oktoberfest was founded until today, the festival has become one of the most popular ones around the world.

Visitors in traditional Trachten (women in Dirndls and men in Lederhosen) can enjoy the atmosphere in various big and small beer tents that serve the notorious Mass, a one liter beer.  I have been to the original Oktoberfest once when I was 18. One of my best friends from High School and I decided to do a road trip to Stuttgart, where my friend had relatives.

Those relatives happened to have plans to visit the Oktoberfest that year, and so they invited us along.  Before that day, I only had caught glimpses and impressions of the festival from magazines and documentaries on TV.  Since I knew that a lot of German celebrities attended the event each year, I was intrigued to check out the hype myself.

My friend’s relatives luckily had a table reserved in the VIP area of one of the beer tents.  Unlike the majority of guests, we weren’t dressed up at all. I can still remember the anticipation I felt walking up to the beer tent, feeling somewhat special due to the fact we wouldn’t have to wait in line like the poor souls who weren’t blessed with a table reservation like us.

But once we entered the sacred inside, I felt a slight breeze of disappointment coming my way.  It was crowded.  It was stuffy.  It was loud.  Don’t get me wrong- of course I knew that there would be a ton of people, which would automatically result in a lot of noise.

But for me, it was just too over the top.  I didn’t catch a glimpse of any hot and poppin’ celebrities because there were none there (I guess our tent wasn’t really a hotspot for the stars) nor did I get into the German folklore music that was blasting out of the speakers.

Once we were seated at our table, I felt a little bit more comfortable since it was way back in the corner of the tent, and we weren’t surrounded by the immense crowds of people. The moment my mood improved for the better was when we decided to get food.

I have always been a foodie, so it was a no brainer for me to give the traditional Munich cuisine a try. I went with one of the typical Bavarian dishes: white sausage with sweet mustard and pretzel.  Once the food was served I started to enjoy the atmosphere a little.

The food was delicious, and I was fascinated by how the Oktoberfest servers managed to carry about ten Mass at the same time while squeezing through the tight crowds.   I personally declined to drink one of the famous one liter beers, but I was impressed by how others were able to chug them down. After a while, my friend and I had soaked in enough of the beer tent experience and decided to partake in the hustle and bustle outside.

Besides the many beer tents, the Oktoberfest also hosted a fair with carnival rides, games, and food booths.  While I am usually a big advocate for these things, I wasn’t feeling it at all that day.  It was just too crowded, and the fact that the side lawns were occupied by drunkards who were passed out on the grass just killed the vibe for us.  We eventually decided to take off and declared the Oktoberfest as a personal no-go.

I never returned to the original event in Germany, but I decided to give an American Oktoberfest in Orange County a chance. This time, I only went with Americans.  And what can I say; I ended up having a blast.  The event started out slow in the beginning, but we had arrived fairly early to avoid the entrance fee, and not many people had showed up yet.

But as the night progressed, the event got busier (not as crazy as the uber-crowded tents in Munich) and my friends and I enjoyed participating in activities such as the chicken dance and the polonaise.  I first was hesitant about joining in the dancing fun until one fellow German guy came up to me and asked me to dance.  It turned out that he was living and working in Irvine, and we had an instant connection.

The rest of the night felt like it was progressing in fast forward.  As they say, time does fly by when you are having fun.  The band that played German folklore kept an upbeat rhythm all night, and games such as beer chug kept the crowd entertained.  My newfound German friend and I enjoyed dancing and talking together, and we later on exchanged information to set up a date aside from the Oktoberfest.

I did return another year, that time with a couple German friends in tow.  They were all a little hesitant of what to think about the Americanized version, but we still had a good time together. As of now, that was the last time I attended any kind of Oktoberfest.  But I hope all of you who are going to the original one in Munich or here in the U.S. are going to have a wonderful time and get to experience this well-known part of German culture if you wish so.

A little fun fact: The term O’ Zapft is translated means “it’s tapped.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, “At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the Mayor of Munich traditionally taps the first keg of beer, exclaiming the above phrase, which marks the official opening of the festival,” (http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com)

Images: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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