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Why Bavarians are busy hanging out bouquets on Mariä Himmelfahrt

You might not have the day off today, but many people across the country do. The Catholic celebration of Mariä Himmelfahrt is a lesser known yet rather floral public holiday in many parts of southern Germany.

Why Bavarians are busy hanging out bouquets on Mariä Himmelfahrt
Girls celebrating Mariä Himmelfahrt in Kochel am See, Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

What is Mariä Himmelfahrt?

Commonly celebrated on August 15th each year, Mariä Himmelfahrt is known in English as the Ascension of the Virgin Mary.

Catholics believe that heaven received the Virgin Mary’s body on this day, symbolizing human redemption. According to the Catholic faith, the Virgin Mary’s soul – as well as the souls of all human beings – lives on after her death.

Though introduced in the fifth century, the holiday has been celebrated since the seventh century. It has since come to be observed as a major feast day for Catholics.

Tuesday also marks the start of 30 Marian feast days, which are specific holy days recognized by Christians as significant for the celebration of events in the Virgin Mary’s life.

Women in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA.

Where is it celebrated?

Mariä Himmelfahrt is considered a public holiday in the state of Saarland and a large number of towns and cities in Bavaria – 1,704 out of Bavarian 2,056 municipalities, to be exact. These are municipalities where the majority of residents are Catholic.

If you live in Munich, Würzburg, or Augsburg, you probably kicked off your public holiday on Tuesday with a lie-in. But if you live in Nuremberg, you may have had to set you alarm clock this morning.

Five of the eight largest cities in Bavaria observe Mariä Himmelfahrt as a public holiday.

Some municipalities can actually lose or gain the public holiday depending on the area’s population of Catholics and whether this number increases or decreases. In 2014, for instance, as a result of the 2011 census, three Bavarian municipalities lost a public holiday whereas seven gained it.

But Germany isn’t the only country where the holiday is celebrated. It's also observed in all of Austria, parts of Switzerland and according to Dom Radio, the radio station of the Cologne Cathedral, certain areas in France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Spain.

How is it celebrated?

More elaborately in particular places. In the Bavarian city of Kochel am See, an annual parade is held and a festival takes place where revellers are typically clad in traditional costumes.

People in traditional clothing playing musical instruments in Kochel am See, Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

In rural areas, candle liturgies are a common sight.

But what seems to be most popular in the celebration of the custom are the abundance of herbal and flower arrangements where dozens of various herbs and plants are gathered, bunched together and blessed.

Some Catholics believe flowers and herbs were found in place of the Virgin Mary’s body at the opening of her tomb. This may explain why during the holiday bouquets of herbs are often hung up in front of homes, meant to protect against misfortune and illness.

LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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