In the streets

Living in Germany sometimes feels absolutely no different from living in the United States with the day to day tasks and interactions. Of course, then there is the whole, German language thing in order to communicate

…the Sundays when all the shops are closed

…the four Sundays a year the shops are allowed to be open

…the fact that the bathroom light switch is almost always on the outside of the bathroom

…the German stare

…registering with the city within two weeks of moving

…city-wide celebrations (Altstadt fest, Karnival, Weihnnachtsmarkt, etc)

…Catholic holidays that are actually celebrated

just to name a few.

Today Corpus Christi is celebrated in Germany. If you are like me and didn’t know what this day was, other than perhaps a day off of work (for me and my colleagues, not my husband though) – it is a catholic holiday. Since I live in a very catholic region of Germany, we celebrate it. As I am typing this all the bells in the city are going off.  For such a small town (of 100,000+ inhabitants) the bells are quite grand, although mismashed together going off all at once.

The difference from what I am hearing right now and this video is that these bells, outside my window have been going for about ten minutes and don’t sound like they plan on stopping any time soon (and didn’t stop until ten minutes later).

So what is Corpus Christi? I am not catholic, I happen just be married to one.

Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) falls on a Thursday 60 days after Easter Sunday. The day honors the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper), which is important in the Catholic church. Corpus Christi is a public holiday in some parts of Germany and is marked by parades for the blessed sacrament (in form of bread or wafers).

Corpus Christi became a Christian feast following the work of the nun known as Juliana of Liege, a city now in Belgium. She lived from 1193 until 1252 and repeatedly had visions of Jesus reminding her that there was no special feast day for the Blessed Sacrament. Many Christians celebrated the festival as far back as 1246.

Then, in 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament should be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Since Trinity Sunday is one week after Pentecost, Corpus Christi is 10 days after Pentecost and 60 days after Easter Sunday.

The Eucharist is a celebration of how bread and wine can represent Jesus’ body and blood and the last meal he shared with his disciples. Common symbols are the bread or wafers that represent Jesus’ body, the wine that represents his blood, the plate that holds the bread and the chalice that holds the wine. Other symbols are processional banners and cloths to protect the blessed sacrament (bread or wafers) as it is paraded outdoors. (via

This morning I was treated to a procession of church goers, bishops, priests, nuns, children and others parading in the street while chanting and singing. Something I am not sure I would see in Portland. Mind you my husband’s family is very religious and very devoted and connected to their church. Before we moved, I would frequently attend church services with my husband and his family on special occasions, but their churches processions usually were inside the church not walking throughout the community.

One of the most striking things I’ve noticed about living in Germany versus living in Oregon is that when there is a public event, the hauptmarkt becomes absolutely everyone’s living room and it often spills out into the other squares in town too. Right now, around the corner from our apartment is a ‘Volksfest’, essentially a carnival with rides, games and sugary and fatty foods galore set up. Coming up we have our city’s Altstadt fest which will celebrate the city with music and beer and food galore, and a music stage gets set up right outside our window!! Last year an English student of mind told me months before the event that they would be playing during this festival and that I should come to see them. I said yes, but that they would have to remind me, which the student neglected to do. Then next thing I know, as I am drinking my morning coffee on the Saturday of the Altstadt fest I see his band setting up. I was able to watch the entire concert from our window. SWEET! Sometime later in the summer we will have a car race speeding right through town. Yes, some of this would happen in Portland, maybe a marathon in the streets or a concert down at the waterfront or maybe even in Portland’s “living room”, Pioneer Courthouse Square – but it would never be to the same degree here. What’s more is that when the event is over, the street cleaners come in and clean it up like it never even happened, often as soon as the event is finished. I haven’t seen that kind of speedy clean-up in Portland, for sure! It is just nice to be reminded sometimes how neat it is that I live in Europe, and Germany at that.

Well, now the day seems to have gone back to its quiet reflective self…so I will get back to reading.

Published by livingtheamericandreamineurope

I live in Europe, I am from America.

5 thoughts on “In the streets

  1. It’s funny, I’m in Spain but the list you wrote is almost the same here (except registering after a move, in that case you have more than two weeks). And it is neat to see the whole town or city really celebrate together. Where I live the biggest holiday of the year is Corpus Cristi and the residents spend literally all night decorating the streets with flower petals.

  2. Lovely article and well written. If you like city celebrations I would like to recommand Köln during February (Karneval). Its cold and rainy but everyone is happy and drunken. Tell your man not to wear a tie.
    Btw its Altstadt NOT ältstadt (see

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