Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Spring is Not Behaving


In Germany, we are an orderly lot. Society is predicated on a number of rules, and if every one obeys those rules, then life is good. Some of the unwritten rules of society are: lace curtains good, no curtains bad; clad feet good, bare feet dangerous; hot lunch good, salad inadequate. Then there are the written rules – which days which bins get collected, no lawn-mowing or car-washing on Sundays (to ensure a day of rest), no pruning after March (to protect nesting birds) and a legion of others. I am constantly discovering new rules – for example, I recently discovered all Germans have to carry their ID cards, and foreigners like me who have no such thing, should always carry their passports on them. I have been flouting this rule for 11 years and I didn’t even know it. Most of the time I don’t know where my passport is. I suspect it is buried under that pile of papers in the corner of the kitchen, but I can’t be sure.

One thing that German society cannot order with rules is the weather. But we like to try! This weekend we gave the weather a Very Strong Message. Every year, on the Sunday before the Spring Equinox, towns in this area (and perhaps all over Germany, I’m not sure) participate in a Sommertagszug – a procession through town to celebrate the end of winter and encourage the onset of spring. Kindergarten and schoolchildren dress up in spring-themed outfits and walk through town accompanied by marching bands, floats decorated with flowers and smart policepeople on horses. In our family we had two participants in the procession – a frog and a ladybird. Like the loyal parents we are, we thronged the pavements to wave and and yell encouragement at our offspring (“Yay, frog!” “Go, ladybird!”). Imagine us when they start playing football.

Despite a clear message from our town, that the 80 frogs, 100 ladybirds, dozens of garden gnomes, buzzing bees, and small people under flower-bedecked parasols could do with some decent weather, it poured. Like every Sommertagszug I’ve ever had the joy to be involved with, the weather was shite – dripping, bone-achingly cold and miserable.

Then the procession moved to the river meadow, where we proceeded to give the weather an even stronger message.

First, take one jolly snowman:

Arrest him:

And then burn him on a pyre:

Well, you would have thought, wouldn’t you? You would have thought that this would be a crystal clear signal: Weather, Behave! Or Else.

No, actually. Today, on the Spring Equinox, we had sun, followed by ice rain, followed by a random rumble of thunder, followed by sun, followed by snow. It was freezing. We expect to be walking to school in our snow boots tomorrow. Spring is not behaving. We shall have to think up further punishments.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

27 thoughts on “Spring is Not Behaving

  1. Oh my goodness – how FANTASTIC! You know, I think I want to move to Germany. I would love to set fire to a snowman. Here in America that would probably outrage somebody somewhere and he/she would make a law against burning snowmen and there would be rallies and such. I hope spring comes for you soon, Charlotte!

  2. Oh, how uncivil of the weather to ignore such clear warnings! I have to admit I love the idea of burning the snowman — such a colourful and apt way to say (in this case, a pre-emptive) goodbye to Winter. I hope that Spring is not too far away…

  3. How marvellous to read of all those traditions! Quaint and interesting.

    As I write this, it is snowing heavily outside. Yesterday I actually wore my snowboots too – and will do so today as well. It is freezing. Mad weather.

  4. Did you also know that you are not allowed out of the house without money? Yes, there is a law that you have to have some token sum (days of public phones and bus rides) of money on your person, so you can call someone if you are in need of help.

    I’ve chosen not to carry around my passport because I figure that the chances of me losing my passport is higher than the chances of the police stopping me and asking me for identification. I do carry around my driver’s license with a photo of me, but that, according to my law abiding husband, Doesn’t Count.

  5. What a fantastic idea, I had no idea such a festival existed in Germany! German orderliness has something comforting to it, but as a French woman, everytime I go in Germany, after a while of trying to discipline myself, I feel the (national? innate?) urge to do something utterly rebellious, like crossing the road outside the pedestrian crossing!

  6. Oh, I love the burning of the snowman. Wish we could burn the bugger here too… it’s flipping cold!

    I read the other day that in Holland it’s a sign of a good mother to always have a token sum of money on one’s person. Obviously I am a bad mother because I never do!

  7. Courtney, when we first saw the snowman on the pyre a couple of years ago, we were a little uncomfortable with it. But the kids love it so much that we’ve got into it. Hey, burn a snowman … why not?

    Kerryn, we had to don our snow gear today, but it was fun. The weather will eventually behave.

    Wendz, I’m not sure if it’s a national or a regional tradition but it’s great. We like the dressing-up and the parade; that’s fun.

    Lilalia, that’s hilarious! I’m breaking all these rules I didn’t know about. My feeling about the passport is the same – it’s safer at home than out with me. I also carry a driver’s licence as my ID. One day I may find out if that’s good enough.

    Smithereens, I know the feeling of wanting to transgress. We used to have it too, but have become so eingedeutscht that we meekly do what is expected of us (except for the lace curtains). However, there are probably transgressions that we commit on a daily basis that we aren’t aware of.

  8. someone told me that, in sweden, if something isn’t illegal then it’s probably compulsory. maybe that’s the same in germany

  9. Charlotte, I may have missed the blog on why you are in Germany. It seems so interesting! I love reading about your adventures.

  10. I’m sorry, that is bloody hilarious. Burning snowMAN!

  11. We never have that much fun in Freiburg.I love reading your blog, it’s just the right mix of here and home…thanks.

  12. Hmmm… if burning a snowman doesn’t send a strong enough message, then I wonder what might. Perhaps, planting spring flowers would work … pansies especially since they can survive snow in a pinch.

    That is a cool celebration. I especially enjoyed the picture where the snowman is arrested … our snow is now starting to melt. It felt like spring today!

  13. I’d love to burn a snowman; it would do my tropical blood some good, especially since I try to avoid them unless they’re safely animated on the tv screen. But I’m pretty sure everyone in Canada would be horrified at the idea, and since I certainly don’t carry my passport everywhere with me–it’s in a bag, buried under clothes…somewhere–I’d definitely be deported.

    Great celebration–loved the pictures!

  14. Charlotte and lilalia: I have known the rules (they’re the same in Frankreich, probably imported from the other side of the Rhein sixty-five years ago), and have been breaking them all my life: I never have any cash on me, and often I even do not have anything with my name on (now this is bad practice in case I get run over by a bus).
    For the record, in the course of my life, I have been asked for my identity papers … never. Multiply that by 2 or 3 because the Polizei is more zealous than our Gendarmes.

    I am not sure how I feel about burning the poor snowman. Well, it was probably better then melting anyway. Rest his soul and come summer.

  15. I’m just surprised to see the likeness of something being burned that isn’t W.

    The snowman burning looks like great fun. It sounds like there’s about a tradition a week in Germany. Over here we get holidays but they’re usually all about saving 20% on a mattress or rushing to the mall for great holiday bargains.

    It’s lovely to see the word ladybird again. I’ve grown so used to saying ladybug lately. 🙂

  16. That festival reminds me of when I lived in a little town in the south of France-they didn’t burn snowmen but they had that sort of event (a wheelbarrow fete, anyone?). The weather doesn’t behave here, either. It snowed a lot of this week. But I think I’m allowed out without passport or minimum amount of money…

  17. Oh no, I commented yesterday and it seems to have disappeared. Wish we could burn a snowman here. In Holland one is only considered a good mother if one has money on one’s person at all times (for emergencies). I do not, therefore I am not? Maybe.

  18. Seems like I’m the only one here from the southern hemisphere. It was soooo hot here in Melbourne this week that if you burnt a snowman or set fire to anything out in the open you would be risking a wild fire. The gardens are so dry with water restrictions and the bush is always dry, things would just go up! Not to mention being too hot to stand anywhere near a fire at the moment.

    But, it is interesting to hear about these traditions. The outsiders point of view can’t help but find it a bit bizarre, but hey we’ve just had our Moomba festival and the birdman rally and dragon boat races probably equate this in bizarre-ness.

  19. I just love the burning snowman. How appropriate. We have been burning brush piles here, trying to get completely cleaned up from the ice storm in January. Once that is done, then the fences need to be fixed, we lost two great big sections of fence during that storm.

    Meanwhile, we are pruning the grapes today and tomorrow, and will be burning the canes as soon as we are done.

    Right now spring is definitely underway here, the daffodils are in full bloom, also the forsythia bushes. It is raining right now, gently. The plums and apricots are blooming now and so I pray that we do not get a hard freeze, which would kill the fruit set.

  20. The weather’s crazy here, too. I love the Sacrifice of the Snowman, though. Very dramatic, very powerful. You must let us know if it appeases the weather gods because we could do that here, too, if it works!

  21. I think burning seasonal figures in effigy could be the next big thing!

    Perhaps you could be like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity: when the polizei ask you for your papers, just knock them out with your martial-arts prowess. Skip the amnesia/getting shot in the back thing though.

    We’re finally getting spring-like weather after getting the biggest snow of the year last week. All our little aconites and crocuses got buried, but seem to be perking up.

  22. Spring is not behaving here in Boston either.

    I want to burn a snow effigy!

  23. What a wonderful way of remonstrating with the weather. How dare it ignore such a dramatic ceremony!

  24. Spring’s not behaving in Connecticut, either, but it’s been absolutely bea-u-ti-ful in Georgia all week (so, of course, people being people and having to find something to complain about are all complaining about the pollen and how high the count is and how they’d better get some rain to bring it back down…).

  25. That is the funniest set of photos I’ve seen in ages! I used go about in terror of the ‘small amount of money’ rule, incidentally, because I never had enough!

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