Popular and Traditional Culture

Living in another country means that you are always drawing comparisons with your own culture.  Sometimes it seems like globalization runs rampant.  Commonalities are seen all around you, in our case between our home in California, and our temporary home in southern Germany.  An example is my daughter’s analysis of the television show “Deutschland Sucht den Superstar” (DSDS), which in English is “Germany searches for a Superstar.”

“Just like ‘American Idol,’” Kirsten said.  “Only the Simon Cowell figure is ruder, if that’s possible.”  Indeed, the two shows even have the same blue oval logo.  All this brings a groan, about the coarseness of globalized world culture.  Did I come all the way to Germany just to realize that they have American Idol too? (Keep in mind too that American Idol is a rip-off of another bad British program).

But then we end up going to the “Fasching Celebrations” which are two or three weeks of rituals, celebrations, parades (and drinking) designed to drive away the spirits of winter.  Every town in southern Germany seems to have clubs of witches and fools who ride around in costume on the trains in elaborate costumes in with their masks under their arms.  Large parades are organized.  The masked witches and fools free the kids from school on “Dirty Thursday,” and iun our town, arrest the town magistrate and put him on trial.  Our town magistrate, a man from northern Germany, was accused of being too skinny to be a burgermeister, and sentenced to eat platefuls of Swabian food from southern Germany.

Kids practiced cracking their whips all across town for all three weeks, and a particularly loud brass band wakes us up one morning at 4:45 a.m. with their parade through our otherwise quiet neighborhood.  It all culminated on a Sunday evening two weeks ago in a beer hall made of wood and grass and capped with the effigy of a witch.  After the beer was drunk, the beer hall hall was torched at the end of the two to three week long ritual as youth cracked their whips, in one last determined attempt to drive away the spirits of the winter.

Fasching ended two weeks ago, and I am happy to report that the winter, at least for the time being, seems to have lightened.  The days are both getting longer, and warmer.  The kids are back in school, and we no longer hear the cracking of whips.  I do not know if our burgermeister has gained weight yet or not.  Unfortunately, there is not yet another German superstar–that will have to wait for another next post.  Kirsten though tells me that the winners of DSDS have yet to become as big as Kelly Clarkson!