November in German Culture and History


November: The Mourning Month and Its Fateful Dates

The first two days of November are significant in the Christian religious calendar. November 1 is All Saints Day (Allerheiligen). November 2 is All Souls Day (Allerseelen). In Germany, most of Europe, and all over the world where the western Christian church is dominant, these two days are devoted to remembering and praying for the “faithful departed.” Indeed, the Latin (Roman Catholic) name for this day is In Commemoratione Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum (“commemoration of all the faithful departed”).

Two Catrina figures

Two Catrina figures. The Mexican Calavera Catrina (“dapper skeleton” or “elegant skull”) began as social satire in 1910. Today the Catrina figure is associated with the Day of the Dead observance. PHOTO © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com (Wikimedia Commons)

Although Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos), a national holiday, is perhaps better known and a bit more colorful, if you visit some German cemeteries on the same dates, you’re likey to see a similar observance, complete with candles. The main difference is that in Germany there is no all-night vigil in which family members gather near the grave(s) of their “faithful departed,” as in many parts of Mexico. Germans also tend not to celebrate in quite as colorful a manner as in Mexico. You may not see Catrina skeletons, sugar skulls, or decorative masks in Germany, but you will see lighted candles. (See photo below.)

As history (and two world wars) would have it, November in the western world has become a month for commemorating the dead — whether fallen in war or otherwise. Since the 14th century, the Roman Catholic church has dedicated the month of November to the dead, and in the United States, November 11 is Veterans Day, a time to remember and honor those who fought and died, originally in the Great War ended by the armistice that took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, on November 11, 1918. (In fact, the date was known as Armistice Day prior to World War II.) This day, known as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day in some other Allied nations, is also a holiday in France and Belgium. Continue reading

Karneval and Fasching: There’s an App for That!

Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht – Mardi Gras or Carnival, German style, is coming up soon (Feb. 10-12). And, as for most things, there’s an app for that!

Here’s a look at some interesting German carnival and Fasching apps for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android devices, most of them free. To find the Apple apps, just go to the App Store on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, or go to the iTunes Store and select iPhone or iPad apps. For Android, go to Google Play. Unless stated otherwise, all the apps below are available for both Android and iOS, and are in German. This means they are great for people with at least intermediate German skills trying to improve their German, as well as those who actually are planning to attend carnival in German-speaking Europe. A word of caution! I have not personally used or tested any of these apps. If you have, please leave a comment!

The Kölner Karneval (Cologne Carnival) is one of the biggest carnival events in Germany, if not the biggest. Most (but not all) of the apps listed here are related to Karneval in Cologne. The first one is in both German and English: Continue reading