Friday, March 29, 2013

Stille Feiertage / Quiet Holidays

Today is Karfreitag - Good Friday. Like All Saints' Day, this day is a sacred holiday here in Baden-Württemberg.  Nothing is open - no stores, car dealerships, libraries, movie theaters or banks - except the churches, a handful of gas stations on the Autobahn, and some restaurants. The laws governing our actions today are even more strict than the general "Sonntagsruhe," which I wrote about a few months ago. We are to be quiet and respectful, not do yard work, use loud hand tools or play loud music, honk horns, or throw a loud party. Actually, we must not throw any party. And surely no dancing. Although some holidays are not observed in certain Bundesländer (states), Karfreitag is observed in all 16. The entire country is shut down for mourning and remembrance.

I learned this morning that there is a Tanzverbot (ban on dancing) on Karfreitag. It's an actual law that forbids dancing. Although the Verbot (ban) seems only to apply by law to Karfreitag, there is, for instance in the town of Münster, a general rule that dancing is not done between Gründonnerstag  (Maundy/Holy Thursday) at 6:00 p.m. and Easter Saturday at 6:00 a.m.. Any dance club that is open on Holy Thursday evening must place chairs and tables on the dance floor so that no one is tempted to move their bodies to the rhythm of the quiet music - or face a fine of at least €500.

Nothing about today should look like a celebration, and for Christians that does make sense, of course. It would be unseemly to laugh and dance on the day we are supposed to remember Christ's crucifixion. On this Lord's Day, people should not be engaging in any worldly pleasures.

In many cities there is also a ban on moving furniture on Karfreitag. That is, one may move a sofa from one location to another inside of one's home (quietly), but no relocating from one house/apartment to another. Carrying pieces of furniture in the open and in public is simply not ok. And while fitness clubs might be open on Thursday afternoon and evening and individuals can work out, the music, if playing at all, must be soft and quiet.

There are, of course, some who don't agree with these rules and laws. In Münster last year the political party die Piraten (the pirates) protested strongly against the Tanzverbot, calling such laws "no longer appropriate" in the sense of "not in keeping with the times," but they lost.

It still strikes me as interesting, in this country where the people are not overly (openly) religious, that Christian holidays and Sundays are observed so strictly. This observance may be more of a cultural or even peer pressure thing by now than religious. Germans tend to respect rules, and no one wants to create trouble in the neighborhood - especially in a small town like ours. People who never attend church still observe the "no yard work" rule. If someone needs to vacuum today, at least he keeps his windows closed.

Compared to the way things are here, I'd have to say that Good Friday is barely even observed in the U.S. (at least in Wisconsin). It's true that most schools are off and churches have services, but I think that's it. Kohl's still has a sale, I'm sure, grocery stores are open for people getting ready for the family gathering on Sunday, most people are at work, those lucky few who are off today can get some spring yard work done, and kids of all ages are whooping it up to celebrate their Friday off from school. After all, it is Good Friday, isn't it??

Quite honestly, I think it's wonderful to have these quiet days during which shopping at sales is simply not an option and everyone is generally quiet. Employees should have this time to spend with family, or at least not at work. The most we could do today if we wanted to get out is take a walk around town or through the valley (without laughter or loud talking, of course). We could go for a drive through the Black Forest, but if we got low on gas we'd be in a world of trouble.

So I think today we'll just relax, listen to quiet music, read, watch a sad movie, take that walk, and prepare dinner quietly. We'll have to let the rest of you enjoy your worldly pleasures and laughter this day.

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