May is the winning month if you are German! There are a ton of holidays and observances this month, and Pfingstsonntag and Pfingstmontag fall are two days observed nationally. A lot of schools will also take the week or two off for Pfingsferien, so it's a time when many Germans will take a journey and have some vacation time. While driving through Bavaria about 6 years ago, we got stuck right in the middle of one of the Pentecost Ox processions. It was really amazing and our car was surrounded by cows, all dressed up, with a particularly fancy one leading the charge. So, what is this holiday in Germany?
Sunday, May 20th, is Pfingstsonntag in Germany. Pfingstsonntag, also known as Pentecost, is a Christian holiday which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, while they were celebrating the Feast of Weeks. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the church. Monday, the 21st of May, is Pfingstmontag and a national holiday here in Deutschland.
There a a few special Pfingsten traditions in many regions of Germany. The "das Pfingstbaumpflanzen" is the planting of the Pentecost tree. The "der Pfingstenkranz" is a Pentecost wreath and "der Pfingstochse" is the Pentecost ox.
Das Pfingstbaumpflanzen (The planting of the Pentecost Tree)
The traditions of Pentecost celebrate spring, dating, and fertility. The Pentecost trees, typically from fresh logged birch trees are placed on village squares or at night in front of the houses of young, unmarried ladies.
Der Pfingstochse (Pentecost Ox)
The Pentecost Ox is a custom carried out on Pentecost Sunday, most popularly in Bavaria. On this day, the Pentecost steer leads a herd of cattle, typically in solemn fashion, to the pasture. The Pfingstochse, typically the strongest of his peers, will be adorned with flowers, straw, ribbons and branches. The phrase, "geschmückt wie ein Pfingstochse” refers to be dolled up like a Pentecost ox, or dressed up for a fancy occasion.