Monday, 1 February 2021

Happy February!

Happy February to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Sámi mit ihren Rentieren im norwegischen Winter"
"Sámi with their Reindeer in the Norwegian Winter"

I suppose most of you had to spend the month the same way as we did. At home, not meeting people, try to go shopping for groceries only if absolutely necessary. Germany is in a hard lockdown, at the moment extended until mid-February though I wouldn't be surprised if that went on for longer. Our incidence in the country has finally crossed the 100 mark but that's not enough. It should be zero.

* * *

What's going on in Germany in February?

The official name in Low German is "Hornung" though nobody really uses this anymore. The name was given to the month because the mature red deer sheds the rods of its antlers and starts pushing new antlers (so he is "horning").

* * *

When I was a child, we would take down our Christmas tree on the 2nd of February, a day known in the church as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Feast of the Holy Encounter. Generally, we call it "Mariä Lichtmess" in Germany and "Candlemas" in English.

* * *

But for most Germans, February is the month where carnival begins (at least in most years, unless Easter is very late). This is a larger tradition in Southern Germany than in the North, therefore I did not grow up with this.

The so-called "fifth season" begins officially on the 11th of November at 11.00 hrs although most of the celebrations take place the last days before Lent. After all, "carnival" comes from Latin "carne vale" which means goodbye to meat. The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as "Weiberfastnacht" or "Fettdonnerstag" (Women's Carnival or Fat Thursday) where the women storm the city halls and "take over" the government. They also cut off any tie that they can get a hold of.

There are big parades in many town on "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday) or "Veilchendienstag" (Violet Tuesday), also in smaller cities and villages on the Sunday. People dress up as groups or decorate a float, often with a theme that has a meaning for the towns or even the whole country, very often satirical. If you are a politician, you will certainly find your picture somewhere. Most of the people participating in the parades through sweets (Kamelle) for the children.

Since I didn't grow up with this and don't drink any alcohol (and they do drink a lot - a lot, a lot), I am not the biggest fan of carnival but it is a large German tradition and many of its fans are sad that this will be the second year where they can't celebrate their beloved festivity.

* * *

And here's a weather lore (or farmers' rule) for February: When it storms and snows at Candlemas, spring is no longer far. (Wenn's zu Lichtmess stürmt und schneit, ist der Frühling nicht mehr weit.) An English one says: If Candlemas Day be fair and bright Winter will have another fight or If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain Winter won't come again. Since they all predict more or less the same, let's hope the
2nd of February doesn't bring good weather.

We don't celebrate Groundhog Day in Germany (though our family always watches the movie, a MUST) but there is a similar prediction in German. Apparently, we listen to the badger: If the badger is in the sun at Candlemas, he will have to go back into his hole for another four weeks. 

* * * 
I wish you all a wonderful February and hope that we will reach the end of the pandemic soon. Stay safe and healthy!

* * *

Have a happy February with this beautiful watercolour painting by
Frank Koebsch.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.

You can also have a look under my labels Artist: Frank Koebsch and Artist: Hanka Koebsch where you can find all my posts about them.


  1. Happy February. In the United States, only a few states are on a very restrictive and regulated lock down -- meaning our counties (within the state) have more closed industries or regulated businesses and the mask is a constant reminder that you can't enter unless...
    And I happen to live in one of those counties in one of those states. :(

    I expect that things will be like this (in America) for at least another year or so. America is changing before our eyes. (I won't get into it.)

    So I suppose your country will not be celebrating its folk traditions this year?? But it is still very interesting, nonetheless. I've heard of Candlemas in my years. I've always wondered why some Americans still have their Christmas trees up! Maybe they are of German descent. (I saw a lighted one last night, and I wondered why it was still up. LOL.)

    And, yes, and BE GONE virus!!! Please!!!

    1. Welcome to the club, Ruth. There is one thing we all have in common right now. We hope that this cup will pass from us.

      I found a nice quote the other day. "We are not all in the same boat but we are in the same storm." Our boat is pretty comfortable, I know many have a harder lot than we. But I still would love for this to be over so I can see my boys again.

      The tradition with taking down the tree at Candlemas might also be a Catholic one, so maybe the lights you saw were from Catholics? Or both?

      Anyway, best wishes to you, your family and your country.

  2. Happy February! I still think it will be a rather quiet month. However, from Monday 8 February shops and museums will open here in Austria. I intend to visit a museum as soon as I can. What I miss most these days is the cultural life in all their forms. I am sure I can visit in a secure and safe way, which is most important.

    1. I long to just go out and have a coffee somewhere, would be so nice. How quickly we are willing to put up with the little things. Germany still is in lockdown until 14 February, next week, they will decide what happens after that. Wish us luck. As I wish you luck.

  3. Loved hearing about all those traditions. It is sunny here this morning so the groundhog saw his shadow. I am always fine with a long winter because we get more rain and the hot weather comes later.

    1. Thanks, Judy. I love to talk about the traditions, especially since I know that many of my blogger friends like that.

      Funny thing, I read yesterday that the groundhog tradition probably goes back to German immigrants. I never knew that.

      Anyway, I wish you luck, too. Get through this madness safe and sound.

  4. Thank you for sharing these traditions, I really love to see how these days look around the world, and which ones are almost purely American in their history. I think the comparisons are a lot of fun, and I apparently need to brush up on my Latin (meaning, I need to study it!) because I did not know the origins of the word Carnival. Thanks for the knowledge!

    1. Thanks for liking my post. I once mentioned a German custom somewhere and got so many positive reactions that I decided I will write more about them. And it's always great to compare with other countries. That way, we often see that there is more that unites than separates us.

      If you'd like to "brush up" or learn any language, I can heartily recommend Duolingo, they're great for learning and/or keeping in the loop. It's free. This is my profile.

      Have a happy weekend!

    2. My ancestry is heavily German and Swedish, with touches of assorted other western European countries, and my last name is easily one of the most common German ones you can find. I love posts like this and will definitely look for others you've already written.

      So funny you mention Duolingo, because I decided recently I am going to re-learn German. Even though he and his siblings were born on a farm in southern Minnesota, German was my grandpa's first language. I took four years of German in high school and was even vice president of the German National Honor Society, but two decades without using it have really taken their toll. A few months ago my grandpa gave my daughter and I his German textbook from college and I adore it, but need to teach myself again, so I can teach her! She is seven, and really the prime age. Learning new languages becomes so much more difficult as children get older.

    3. What an interesting family tree you have. I am Swedish, and there was a lot of emigration from Sweden to the US at the end of the 19th century. Do you know from where your Swedish ancestors come? I am from the province of Småland and a lot of people left for the US due to bad harvests and difficult lives.
      One of our most famous authors Wilhelm Moberg wrote four books following a group of people from a village in Småland who emigrated. They are very popular and have also been made into films. From Wikipedia:
      "Moberg's most famous work is The Emigrants series of four novels, written between 1949 and 1959, that describe one Swedish family's emigration from Småland to Chisago County, Minnesota in the mid-19th century. This was a destiny shared by almost one million Swedish people, including several of the author's relatives. These novels have been translated into English: The Emigrants (1951), Unto a Good Land (1954), The Settlers (1961), and The Last Letter Home (1961). His literary portrayal of the Swedish-American immigrant experience is considered comparable to O.E. Rolvaag's work depicting that of Norwegian-American immigrants."
      Are you familiar with his works? You are right, languages bring us together and it also gives us the culture and traditions of the language country.

    4. @Sarah.
      Yes, a very interesting family history indeed, at least for us Europeans who often only have the one country in their ancestry. Most of my American friends have quite a diverse list of countries among their forefathers.

      Anyway, I can honestly recommend to start with your daughter asap, you can learn again along with her. And Duolingo is a great help with that, though I probably would also use your grandfather's books ...

      When I moved to England in the nineties, I had only read a few English books in my life, those that we had had in school. It was difficult to get foreign books in Germany at the time, at least in our little towns nearby. So, I first started with easy books, children's books that I read to my kids, young adult books, then chick lit, that's always easy. It helped me a lot with improving my English and today, it doesn't matter to me whether a book is written in English or German, I read one as fast as the other. You can get there. And it's so much easier nowadays to get foreign literature everyhwere.

      If ever you need any help of hints as to what to read, let me know.

      And if you are looking for similar posts, check under the links of the artists Hanka and Frank Koebsch.

    5. @Lisbeth.
      I guess we are both from countries that a lot of people left for the New World. At least every second American I have met told me they had German ancestors.

      Looks like Vilhelm Moberg's books have been translated into German, as well, so I have to see whether I can get them (not in print right now but sometimes you find used copies). They sound quite interesting.

      Thanks for that.

    6. It seems they have it on Some are a little bit pricey, but you might be able to get some used copies.

    7. Thanks, I've seen it. I was looking for a German translation and they are even more pricey. I rather read translations into German than into English since they are often better. Probably because we translate lots more books into German than are translated into English, I don't know. Probably the same in Sweden.

      Still, if I don't get them in German, I might try an English copy. Thanks.

  5. @Lisbeth - Yes! My great great grandma was born in Sweden in either 1889 or 1891 (I can't remember off the top of my head!) and lived to be 105 - one month shy of 106 actually, she passed away. She became known as 'The Pie Lady of Winthrop', because of the delicious homemade pies she served at her cafe every day - something she did well into her 80s. There's a book of that very title written by a couple of journalists from one of the major papers in Minneapolis, and it includes her story, as well as other 'Minnesota tales'.

    Minnesota is so very Swedish; most settlers were Swedish or German. It is funny to me that the game of 'Duck, Duck, Gray Duck' is only called that in Minnesota, because it is the translation of the game from Sweden, but everywhere else in the country it is called 'Duck, Duck, Goose'. I have to confess I do not know much about my Swedish ancestry but want to learn. I have a lot of material from my grandma's cousin (Grandma is the Swedish side of the family) and I hope to be able to document our family tree more fully when I have the time. I really love this kind of historical research.

    Thank you for the information on Moberg; I am unfamiliar with his work but will make time to find this series. Our library system doesn't have any of the series you mentioned, but I bet I could find it through the inter-library loan system, where we can order from just about any library in the country and only pay a small shipping fee. Thank you!

  6. @Marianne - For the longest time we thought our family was overwhelmingly German on my grandpa's side, and a mix of German and Swedish on my grandma's side; now when my grandpa did one of the 23 And Me DNA tests, we discovered a bit of British and French as well - apparently we share ancestors with the House of Bourbon and Louis XIV directly. it must be quite funny sometimes for you to hear all the mixtures of countries among friends in the US - especially when those countries have historically been enemies in earlier centuries. It amuses me, anyway. I am hoping to still find Scottish ancestry somewhere, I am absolutely in love with Edinburgh. I surprised my mom with a vacation there in 2009, as it was her dream vacation spot. The moment I stepped off the bus onto the Royal Mile and could see Edinburgh Castle to me left and Holyrood to my right, I felt a sense of completeness I've never felt before. It was truly magical.

    I wish schools would start teaching languages earlier here, as part of the regular curriculum. Some schools in my district are dual-language schools where half the day is taught in English and half in Spanish. But that is the extent in the public schools and I am unsure of how it might work in private schools. Typically languages don't enter into the curriculum until middle school, so around ages 12 and 13. Honestly, by then it almost feels too late and someone really has to have a passion for languages to hold onto and retain it. We will definitely be starting learning and re-learning German this summer at the earliest, I would suppose. This school year is just too chaotic otherwise right now.

    My daughter is only seven, but she is a voracious reader, so I imagine it would be something she can pick up quickly by using your suggestion of starting with children's books. She's pretty much beyond picture books at all and has been into chapter books for a while, but I think she would gladly work backward to learn German - her Opa would love that! We can start with Duolingo and work up to books - you are right in that just immersing yourself in the language is the best way to learn it. I found when I was learning in high school, I could read it well, but struggled with speaking it myself. Not sure why! I would love children's book suggestions from you when we get to that point, thank you so much!

    1. I'm not surprised you're from Minnesota. Many of my best American friends are from there. And they all share your political views.

      I'm quite used to my American friends having ancestors from all kind of different backgrounds. That's how it should be in a country where people come from all parts of the world. Our backgrounds are pretty boring compared to that: German, German, German and ... oh, wait, German! LOL

      I can understand that you love Edinburgh. It is such a beautiful city. We happened to be there on the day of the solar eclipse which made it even more special.

      We are on our way in Europe to start teaching languages earlier but in many cases it's still at around 10 at the earliest which is too late to really immerse the children in it. Also, depending what school you visit, you have to do at least two languages for a long time (in Germany the first for eight to nine years, the second for six to seven).

      And I would be more than happy to recommend books to you. If you let me know what kind of books she loves in English, I'll find some.

      Happy Reading!

    2. Lol, you say that you are German, eh? With a dash of German and a bit more thrown in for good measure?

      Not to brag, but Minnesota really is the best of all the states - especially if you love winter, which I do. That apparently makes a difference to some people but it is my most favorite season.

      I feel like ten is also too late! It really has to begin early, in the youngest grades so that students are immersed in it and it has time to soak into their little brains while all these language connections are being formed.

      As for Eleanor, she especially loves mysteries/ghost stories. We are big fans of Mary Downing Hahn, Nancy Drew, A to Z Mysteries, etc. She loves when kids are solving the mysteries and always points out how dumb all the adults seem, haha. Can't say she is wrong with a lot of those books!

    3. I doubt that there's anything thrown in from elsewhere. People in my area still don't move around much, a hundred years ago that was almost unheard of.

      I don't really love winter but I prefer it to hot summers. Temperaturewise, if I had to live in the States, I would definitely prefer Minnesota to, let's say, Florida. And for many other reasons probably, as well. LOL

      My kids used to love mysteries, so I'm sure I'll find stories for Eleanor once she is up to reading something in German. And I know what she means about the dumb adults in kids' stories. So true.

      Say hi to her.

    4. Florida is terrible for SO many reasons, lol. I can handle when it is a dry heat like Arizona or New Mexico, but humidity is the worst. I can't stand feeling like I am swimming through the air because it is so thick. I hate sweating the moment I step outside, it is all so gross.

      Thank you so much for being my German-books look-out. My Grandpa was so thrilled the other night when we were talking to him about using his book and beginning Duolingo. I'd love for he and Eleanor to have another way to bond, they just love each other so much. I will tell her hello, thank you!

    5. I know exactly what you mean, humidity is the worst. It hits you like a hammer.

      I am so glad that you will find another way to bond with your grandpa, especially for your daughter. So lovely.

  7. Yes! And it makes everything feel sticky and gross I absolutely abhor the feeling of humidity. And it is so suffocating.

    I am looking forward to relearning German, hopefully Eleanor takes to it and can converse with him in two languages instead of only one! He is 100% an English speaker now of course, but in his early years he spoke and was spoken to in both.

    1. I am sure he will love being spoken to in the language he grew up with, no matter how great his English is. I know what I'm talking about though it must be even better for him since he's been without it for so long.

      Viel Glück.

      And yes, the stickiness is the worst bit of humidity.