April 09, 2004

What We're Missing Tomorrow

(Click for a larger version of either image.)
By leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow morning, we're missing one of the only-in-Germany (as far as I can tell) traditions that I was most looking forward to: Osterfeuer.

On the night before Easter Sunday, giant fires are lit all over the place. Why? Ostensibly, it's to celebrate Christ's triumph (Phoenix-like, as it were) over death; the tapers that light the candles in church on Easter morning are lit from the ashes of the previous night's fire. In reality, the whole thing is rooted in ancient Pagan celebrations -- lighting fires to drive out the last bit of Winter -- and I think that most people take part just because it's fun to go totally crazy and light gigantic fires once a year. (Those cones are about three or four stories tall; they're built using whole trees!)

There'll be an Osterfeuer held in neighborhoods all across Hamburg; I took these pictures in 2000 in Blankenese, along the banks of the Elbe river. Right across the road from these fires were multimillion-Euro riverfront homes; people were standing on the balconies of those houses with beer in hand, cheering the fires on even as they propelled giant bits of burning flotsam through the air above them. Sure, the fire department was parked right there, but I think that this illustrates a fundamental difference between German and American attitudes towards risk, social occasions, and having fun -- in America, bonfires of that size would probably be held in the middle of a sports stadium or a giant empty field (or just not held at all), with spectators kept far away, just to make sure that Everybody Has Fun And Nobody Gets Hurt.

Also, a random piece of American Easter miscellania:

In 1953, it took 27 hours to make one Peep: the story of Marshmallow Peeps (and why the company that makes them is called "Just Born"), from slate.com.

Posted by Kevin at April 9, 2004 10:53 PM

And don't forget that most informative of all scientific inquiry: Peep Research http://www.peepresearch.org/

Posted by: Shelby at April 10, 2004 12:21 AM
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