After being back in Germany for 2 weeks I had to admit, that besides some quite annoying things about Germans and Germany – the lack of sunlight being one of the things – Berlin is still a very fascinating city and there are also quite a few things I like about Germany. One of them is the abundance of tradition.
Too many traditions
No doubt that traditions can be a serious problem. Two friends told me the story of how annoying, formal and overly traditional their final exams at German universities had been. There are strict rules about exams and defending a PhD is not only an intellectual challenge but also a traditional one. Because the whole event is formal to a degree, that is quite annoying. Other countries (Scandinavia, US etc.) handle these things differently and it seems to me as if one of the protest songs of the student revolts in the sixties against their professors “Under your gown: the musty smell of thousand years” has still some relevance in Germany.
But there are also customs that I not only enjoy, but whose absence I feel in Brazil. This was the reason why for Easter this year I introduced my wife to the coloring of eggs, which I have always found a fun thing to do, specially when you have children. And one tradition we witnessed again was St. Martin’s Day (see Wikipedia). In Germany there are two things happening on this day: the first is a procession of children in the streets, carrying lanterns and sometimes singing songs (it gets dark early in Germany in November so it is quite lovely to see the kids running around in the twilight with their lanterns) and in some regions the children receive a pretzel at the end of the day (I still remember fondly the sweet and tasty pretzel I received as a child in my hometown). The second part for me always opened the time of eating a lot – specially a lot of chocolate – which only ends on January 1st. Because in Germany this is a cold and dark time, so you need to eat a lot. And when you are an adult, you don’t care about an prezel anymore, you want the real thing: you want a St. Martin’s goose.
My St. Martin’s goose has many legs
The origin of this tradition is quite unclear, but as a matter of fact, Germans (and many central Europeans) eat goose in November. Restaurants put goose on the menu in this time, friends and family gather to eat this tasty animal, usually prepared with dumplings, red and/or green cabbage, a thick gravy and baked apples. When we left Germany last year, I wanted to meet my friends for this traditional meal, but it was impossible, because we left on November 6th and goose is only availabe after St. Martin’s Day, which is November 11th. This year we were here in the right time and we met in one of our traditional locations (Prater in Prenzlauer Berg – if you have a chance, go there for some above average food and wine). And we feasted.
This year I realized, that we were having this tradition for a long, long time. In fact, this little circle of friends has been meeting and eating St. Martin’s goose for over 10 years now. A little personal tradition which I love. A very special thanks to all my friends (absent and feasting) who made this possible in such fast-paced times and who took the time to eat with us again. Our Martin’s gooses have many legs and I hope that there will be many, many more gooses (and legs) in the years to come. A fruit schnapps to this! (Another Martin’s goose tradition: you have to finish the meal with a schnapps to calm your stomach. But once you are in Germany, you will soon understand that having a schnapps after a meal is not really a tradition, it is something absolutely natural.)