Sunday, May 4, 2014

Vatertag / Father's Day

Mother's Day in Germany is celebrated very much like it is in the U.S.. It's on the same Sunday as in the States as well. Children buy cards and flowers or a gift for their mother, but here they have to remember do do that at least one day in advance, because of course all the stores are closed on Sundays.  Perhaps the family goes out for a nice meal, and the mother is pampered appropriately.  Father's Day is quite another story...

In Germany Father's Day is always on Ascension Day, which falls on a Thursday forty days after Easter. Ascension Day is a federal holiday in Germany and many other European countries, so Dad automatically has the day off and a short work week. Many dads take Friday off as well, for reasons you'll understand shortly, giving them a three-day work week.  Mothers get their day on a day already set aside for family and rest. Hm.

Vatertag is also called Männertag or Herrentag (Men's or Gentlemen's Day), depending on the region, and therefore it's really a day for all men to celebrate - not just fathers. Hm.

Vatertag in Germany is about hiking, hanging out with your buddies, and drinking a significant quantity of beer. Women are not generally welcomed. Hm.

Disclaimer: Although the following customs and traditions involving Vatertag are common throughout Germany, I don't know anyone personally who has celebrated in this way.

Ingredients needed for a proper celebration of Vatertag/Männertag/Herrentag:

  1. a wagon (you may borrow your child's Bollerwagen)
  2. several crates (or a barrel) of beer
  3. some non-alcoholic beverages (not required, but a good idea)
  4. charcoal & matches
  5. some meat to grill (keep it simple)
  6. bread - baguettes work nicely
  7. a couple of Kumpel (buddies)
  8. an absence of women

You and your Kumpel agree where to meet, and it would be best for that to be at someone's house where everyone who doesn't live within walking distance can crash until the next day. Load up the Bollerwagen with your beer, non-alcoholic beverages, and grilling supplies, and hit the road (on foot). You and your Kumpel parade through town, singing, drinking, and fooling around, and head toward a picnic grill area, where you will likely meet other groups of buddies with the same plans.

Fire up your grill, cook your meat, and eat it with plenty of bread to help soak up what you've already drunk and will consume during the next while. Listen to some music (hopefully one of your Kumpel brought along whatever it is that people use to play music in a park these days), tell some raunchy jokes, fart and belch at will, pretend that it's you - and not the woman you live with - who is in charge of your life, and enjoy the comaraderie until the first of you gets a phone call from home saying time's up.

Unfortunately the incidents of drunk driving in Germany rise on this day to three times the usual, perhaps in part because the police are on high alert, so it's probably a good idea for everyone else to stay off the roads this day if possible. Boys will be boys, as they say in the U.S., and most men deserve one day a year to let loose. Those who let a little too loose are the ones who take Friday off as well - to recuperate amid the scorn of their womenfolk.

Personally, I prefer the way Americans have celebrated Father's Day since 1924: children give their fathers cards, a tie, socks, or coupons for "help" with yardwork, the family goes out for a nice big brunch or Dad grills big steaks on his Weber grill, and if he's lucky he gets to enjoy a few cans of beer while watching a baseball game (the only sport that gets any attention in June).

And in the United States, the land of equality and all that, both Mother's Day and Father's Day are on Sundays - a day already set aside for shopping, yardwork, washing the car, cleaning out the garage, sanding the deck rest.

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