Yesterday was Ascension Day, a holy day 40 days after Easter that celebrates Christ's return to heaven. I was never aware of this day, though I understand that it is observed in the Roman Catholic church. It is a German national holiday. This is interesting for a few reasons- Catholicism is predominant only in certain parts of southern Germany, most Germans do not seem to be overtly devout or religious and Germany generally has strict rules about the separation of religion and government. But none of this is what seems strange.
This is where it starts to get weird. Father's Day in Germany is always celebrated on Ascension Day. Why would this be? Jesus returning to his Father makes us want to honor fathers? But in our area the day is just called Männertag, or Men's Day. And the celebration seems much more about manhood than fatherhood. I finally went to Wikipedia to get a handle on this because I just couldn't quite understand it. Click here to read what others have to say and to see a photo : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father%27s_Day#Germany
I read about it being a day for "men only" to go out and get drunk together but I figured this would be only in cities or at the beach or something. Yesterday morning at 9:45 I hopped on my bike to ride to the home of friends and what did I see? A group of four young men, walking down the sidewalk, pulling a child's wagon (yeah, like Radio Flyer) filled with beer and a portable music system of some sort. And I couldn't imagine where they were going, walking away from town and out into the countryside! As I came to my friends' house, I saw another group of men. These guys were in their 30s and 40s and were pulling a wagon shaped like an airplane! Just walking around drinking beer at ten in the morning.
When I arrived, I wished my friend a Happy Father's Day and asked him about this tradition. I explained that in the U.S., fathers usually spend time with their children on Father's Day, that it is really a family day. He laughed and replied, "Oh no, not here. Every man in Germany is trying to get rid of his family today." Does this seem weird to anyone else?