Halloween and Karneval – Opposites attract.

Halloween Pumpkins

Polite zombies give up their seats for moody princesses on the bus. Fireworks zoom through the night. Kids rejoice on a sugar-high. Halloween has come to Vancouver.

Halloween is the second biggest Holiday in North America (only Christmas brings more business). The festival’s origin lies in a Celtic tradition. On Samhain (a time ‘in between the years’ of the Celtic calendar), the veil separating the world of the living and the netherworld was supposed to be at its thinnest. Therefore, the Celts disguised themselves and lit fires, hoping to disperse evil spirits. When they were converted to Christianity, the church paired this pagan fest with All Saints’ Day, and Samhain became All Hallow’s Eve. From then on, the 31st of October served as a memento mori – a reminder of your mortality. Instead of playing tricks on shadows, people began to play tricks on their neighbors (and burning down each other’s barns on occasion).

Irish immigrants brought Halloween to the USA, where it later spread to Canada. Since the original Halloween spectacle with creepy costumes and devious tricks was not family friendly enough for post-war North America, the holiday became a carnival with a pinch of gruesome. Indeed, modern Halloween costumes are not that different from German Karneval costumes, while creepy costumes become more and more popular on Karneval. It seems, in the last years the line between Karneval and Halloween has become more and more blurry.

The origin of German Karneval could not be more opposite to Halloween. Here, Catholics let it all hang out, before the ascetic time of lent begins. In the fifth season, as the Karneval-goers call it, the fools reign – and they are not shy of speaking what is on their mind. The open critique of politicians and social issues is an integral piece of Karneval.

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Karneval parade in Germany

Today, you may not be allowed to burn down your neighbours barn anymore; however, the masquerade on Halloween is used more and more to express social and political resentment. Hence, it is just fitting that The New Yorker published an article with tips for a good Trump costume.

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Trump wig in Vancouver Halloween shop

Unknowingly, my former host sister in the US was ahead of her time in 2005, when dressing up as a dead cheerleader. At least from that day on everybody knew what she thought of the high school hierarchy.

As many times before, Halloween is once again undergoing a metamorphosis. Though the spiritual customs have lost their significance, the enjoyment of the masquerade remains, and maybe, the holiday is finding new meaning. By pretending to turn the social and political establishment on its head for one night, perhaps we are trying to purge the evil spirits that haunt the modern world.

10 Things Germans do to pinch a penny and save the planet that Canadians will find absolutely awkward (Part 2)

6. The fear of dryers

Germans feel about dryers as North Americans feel about washing their clothes with hot water – we dread it. Funny enough, both have the same motivation: protecting their favorite clothes from deteriorating. However, Germans love washing their clothes hot, so that even the nastiest germ will be knocked on its heals. While heat in hot water is widely accepted though, heat in hot air is a reason to panic for Germans. Rumor has it, that dryers are the enemies in the fight against fabric decay (and waste a lot of energy and therefore money!). Hence, Germans prefer to hang their clothes. They even have a dedicated room for this task – the attic. Clotheslines will be suspended from one wall to the other, and neighbors in apartment buildings come together for chats while hanging up their clothes. Continue reading “10 Things Germans do to pinch a penny and save the planet that Canadians will find absolutely awkward (Part 2)”

10 Things Germans do to pinch a penny and save the planet that Canadians will find absolutely awkward – Part 1

German traffic sign
  1. The anti-idling law

It is a beautiful summer day and you are waiting at a railroad crossing (and there is many of them in Germany!) for the barriers to open. It is hot outside, so naturally you idle to keep the air-conditioning going. You are just singing along to your favorite song on the radio, when a policeman approaches and hands you a ticket. You may ask… WHY??? The officer will promptly inform you, that according to the German Traffic Code § 30 it is “prohibited to let vehicle engines run unnecessarily”, for the reasons of avoiding noise, reducing exhaust and saving energy. Continue reading “10 Things Germans do to pinch a penny and save the planet that Canadians will find absolutely awkward – Part 1”

Trudeau vs. Merkel: How much Twitter does Politics need?

Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau

Germany is gearing up for federal election day and chancellor Angela Merkel is fighting to stay in office. However, her overly-professional attitude could be dooming her. The ‘Mother of Germany’ has become too unapproachable, according to Spiegel1 (a highly recognized German magazine). It has “become almost impossible to see the real person behind the chancellor-persona”. She does not appreciate disclosing private matters and friends who gossip will most likely never see her again. Objectivity is her trademark; but, in today’s world, it may no longer be a favourable one. Continue reading “Trudeau vs. Merkel: How much Twitter does Politics need?”

Happy Labour Day! (english)

Protestor gets arrested on Labour Day, Hamburg, Germany.

Today we’re celebrating Labour Day in Canada. Many folks are just returning home from a relaxing long weekend, which is traditionally spend out camping or at the cabin. The only thing stressing people out is the caravan of RV’s jamming up traffic on the way back to the city.

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Camping is a Labour-Day-Tradition in Canada

To me as a German this is special. Labour Day in Hamburg is the exact opposite of a tranquil holiday. On May 1st (the German Labour Day) the city is in a state of exemption as residents prepare for police sirens, burning cars, flying bricks, and shut down train stations. Traffic jams are also a familiar sight here, though they’re more likely caused by road closures. Continue reading “Happy Labour Day! (english)”

Canada for Beginners, eh?

Patriotic Blenz Coffee advertisement in Vancouver

The decision to move to Canada was a spontaneous one. Just graduated from uni, no job in sight, head over heels in love with that guy from my last vacation – everything was possible and there was nothing to lose. So, I packed up my things and made my way to a new home. There were few concerns on my mind, since I had lived in the States before and had patches from over 30 countries on my backpack – trophies of a typical millennial life. Canada would be a piece of cake, I was sure of that. Of course, things turned out differently. Continue reading “Canada for Beginners, eh?”

The Common Good – two roads, one goal /English

Street art in Vancouver

Volunteering is very much part of Canadian culture. About half of all Canadians donate their time to charity. In Germany it is just a quarter. Volunteers support nurses in hospitals, practice reading with students, and clean parks. They give advice to lost tourists at the airport, show theater-visitors their seats, organize fundraisers for cancer research, and make sandwiches for the homeless. They sacrifice hundreds of hours of their free-time to turn home into a better place. In many ways, volunteers drive Canadian society. Without them, Canada would be a different place; less art, less social services, fewer inviting public spaces, and more poverty. Continue reading “The Common Good – two roads, one goal /English”