USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘german folklore’
Customs
general
Holidays

German Advent Calendar

Context: The informant was talking about differences in American and German culture. This is one of the major differences she saw with American Christmas and German Christmas

 

Piece: Another thing Germans do is the called an advent calendar so like you can buy one with chocolates from um like Trader Joe’s like 25 to 1 and it like counts down to Christmas, but what my family did is like they had this really big one actually like that was just like a bunch of pouches so it was like reusable. And so my grandparents would ship a package like 2 months before Christmas and we fill it up and like they’d putting numbers like little napkins wrap candy with it and we’d like fill it and like every day unwrap one. Sometimes they’d have an ornament, sometimes it’d have like five bucks in it, sometimes it’d have like a couple candies And it was like a family thing so there’d always be stuff in the pouches and we’d open it together and even now I buy the chocolate ones even though it’s not the same, but it’s like such a big part of the countdown.

 

Background: The informant is a 20 year old USC student of German descent. Her family practices this tradition every year.

Analysis: This piece demonstrates how German culture created the advent calendar and how it has morphed in American culture. The German tradition is a personalized set of gifts for a family in order to count down for Christmas. There is an element of surprise that creates anticipation and helps preserve the tradition. But in America, the usual advent calendar sold is a chocolate calendar where each chocolate that counts down to Christmas has a different shape or flavor. American culture has commercialized and mass produced this tradition that originated in the individualized German version. It shows how American ideals have shifted the tradition and created a new version. The personalized version in German tradition creates more of a sense of community and gift giving, in the spirit of Christmas ideals, rather than the manufactured American version.

For another version of the German advent calendar, see: Haring, Carol. “Christmas Activity: Create an Advent Calendar.” Die Unterrichtspraxis / Teaching German, vol. 25, no. 2, 1992, pp. 191–192. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3531917.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Schuhplattler

Main piece: Schuhplattler is a traditional style of Bavarian folk dance that includes lots of leg movement, stomping, clapping and slapping. The male performers wear Lederhosen and the female performers wear Dirndls. Modern performances of Schuhplattler can be seen at Oktoberfest in Germany, where many in attendance of the wear Dirndls and Lederhosen – a very good look. Schuhplattler dancers may also play the accordion in their performances, which is a nice addition.  

Context: The informant (BB) grew up in Schlesien (Silesia), Germany and immigrated to the United States when she was 24 in August 1960. BB and her husband, who was from East Prussia (now considered a territory in Poland), started a family of 3 children in Orlando, Florida and ran a greenhouse business until their retirement. BB is a devout Christian with Lutheran roots. She is fluent in both German and English. Our conversation took place by the fireplace in my home in Atlanta. Interestingly, the informant never practiced, performed or watched Schuhplattler in her youth, since the Bavarian dance was more popular in the Southern part of Germany, and she grew up in the Northwest. However, when she immigrated to the U.S. and began attending the American-German society, many young German people were practicing Schuhplattler and putting on shows among their friends. So, she sent her three kids to Schuhplattler practice every weekend and accordion practice for 5 years (and they hated it). BB admires the dance because it was a tradition she wouldn’t have really been exposed to if she had stayed in Northwestern Germany.

Personal thoughts: There is definitely some irony in the fact that immigrating to a new country taught her more about her own country than living there, in some small ways. It goes to show the ways in which folk adapt traditions to new cultures, locations and time periods. Additionally, the Schuhplattler dance is a perfect reflection of the German people and their mindset – disciplined and refined, yet still lively and fun within those constraints. For external reference, see “Kolb, Alexandra. “The Migration and Globalization of Schuhplattler Dance: A Sociological Analysis.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 7, no. 1, 12 July 2012, pp. 39-55. ProQuest 5000. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.)

Legends

Werewolf of Morbach Legend

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with my mom regarding ghost stories she was told in her childhoods. Our family has German origins, and she specifically remembered an old German myth she was told as a child. She is marked JS, and I am marked CS.

 

JS: “Okay so I believe the city is Morbach, and according to the legend, this is the last place a werewolf has been killed. I think it was killed in the late 1900’s or something. Anyways, the legend is called ‘The Werewolf of Morbach” because it is about a candle that has always been lit as a reminder to the village that the werewolf wont return. And allegedly, one night, the candle went out and soldiers spotted a wolf like figure. And to this day, the candle hasn’t burned out, but allegedly, if it does the wolf is destined to return.”

CS: “And when were you first told this legend?”

JS: “God, I wanna say when I was like 5? My mom loved legends like these and always told them to me before bed.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing old ghost legends and tales she’s heard of.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

I enjoyed this legend because I like how its undertones ties back to war with the soldiers being the ones to discover the unlit candle. I think this is indicative of when the legend arose and why it arose when it did. The legend thus serves as a good reflection of the political and social climate of Germany of the time.

 

Legends

Flower German Legend

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with my mom regarding ghost stories she was told in her childhoods. Our family has German origins, and she specifically remembered an old German myth she was told as a child. She is marked JS, and I am marked CS.

 

JS: “Okay so the other legend I believe was called ‘The Wonderful Flower.” It was about a Shepherd who was in the middle of a difficult relationship. I think they were poor and didn’t have enough money to live a secure life or something like that. Anyways, one day he walked up a mountain and the further he climbed the happier he was, and when he reached the top he discovered a flower that was so beautiful and incomparable to anything else he had ever seen. He decided to keep it to hopefully preserve his relationship with this girl since he was too poor. He then found I think a bunch of bright and beautiful stones and was about to take them when a voice said something like “you’re missing the best one.” Then, somehow, he looked at his hat where he was storing the flower and the flower had somehow disappeared. And then a dwarf appeared and asked what happened to the flower and the shepherd responded that he wasn’t sure. He then went back home and had to tell his fiancé and they both cried together because they assumed that was their only hope of having enough money to get married and have a secure life. However, he remembered he had the stones that were actually gold and the two had a happy life. But the bigger moral of the story is the long-lost flower, and how still, even to this day, people think that they might be able to find it because it is meant for them.”

 

Context:

A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing old ghost legends and tales she’s heard of.

Background:

JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.

 

Analysis:

What I found to be most thought provoking of this legend is how it was less of a focus in the end on the shepherd and his wife and instead a focus on the flower and its meaning in Germany. I feel that most legends tend to follow the protagonist all the way through, and those protagonists are likely meant to resonate with the audience and teach a moral lesson in the end. But with this legend, it is a story more or less about how certain people are meant for treasury like a flower or pebbles and it is a greater being that determines that the one who is meant to be with it, will find it.

 

 

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The German Story of the Pied Piper

Transcribed Text:

“Well basically what happened is there was a town, in somewhere in Germany, that was infested by rats. And, uh, they had this huge rat problem. And they were like “oh crap, what are we going to do about this?” So they hired this man, (audience member mines a piper), yeah exactly, who um, who enchanted the rats by playing his, uh..whatever his piper or something like that. And all the rats follow him out of the city. And, um, so the town never paid him. And, uh, he got super pissed, so, during the night one night, he came back, and he enchanted all the children of the town, uh, to follow him out and that was their uh, punishment.”

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California and says that she has German heritage through her mother and grandparents. She learned of this story from her grandparents and says that it is a good story to teach people about karma and owing up to people. This piece of märchen uses the typical points, where there is a moral story in the end. It is clear to all audience members as well as the informant that this story does not contain real characters that existed at one point, but is of a made up fantasy realm where a piper can enchant rats and humans to do his bidding.

This piece of märchen is normally performed in a family setting from an adult to a child, according to the informant. It is usually told by a parent or grandparent to a young child to teach the lesson of being honest and and fair, so that one won’t be punished. This piece of folklore has also been found published by the Grimm brothers, and they tell a very similar version, though theirs have a lot more concentration on the motifs of the story, rather than the vague version the informant gave. It is obvious that the informant is not normally an active bearer of this story, as she tells it without much detail and with only general knowledge on the overarching themes and plot line.

Annotation: This story has been adapted into a film called “The Pied Piper” in 1972, directed by Jacques Demy.

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