Fronleichnam - ANOTHER May Holiday in Germany?

German Kids Have it Made in May!

Yes, it's true....there is one more holiday in the month of May.  This holiday will be about the 8th either public holiday or observance in Germany, depending on where you live.  My daughter attends Grundschule and she has had an awesome month with only 14 days of school due to German holidays, bridge days (when the holiday falls on a Thursday, they take Friday too!), and a week off for Pfingstferien (spring break).  It's also hard to believe that over the past 8 years living here, I have only caught sight of this celebration once as it's never been on my radar and typically catches me by surprise (why is everything closed today?!  Ah, ANOTHER holiday here in Deutschland!).  My kids and I were taking a bike ride through town last year and finally saw what this holiday is all about.  We observed a large procession of people coming through on foot, holding a huge canopy,  flowers everywhere, and dressed in all white.  They made their way into the church, which is where our observation of Fronleichnam ended.

 By Andreas Gälle [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andreas Gälle [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

What is Fronleichnam?

Fronleichnam, or Corpus Christi, is a public holiday in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.  It is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday – eight weeks after Easter Sunday and one week after Pentecost or Whit Sunday. If you don't live in these areas, it will be business as usual this day.  The holiday is in the Catholic celebration of the belief that Jesus remains with us in the flesh through the bread and wine consumed during communion.  

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How it's Celebrated

During Fronleichnam there will be church services, gatherings and processional parades. The first Fronleichnam procession was held in the year 1270.  Many of the processions are colorful, streets are decorated in greenery and flowers, women wearing regional clothing and costume, and kids in all white.  The processions will vary region to region, and village to village.  The priests and acolytes will lead the procession under a canopy then carry the Blessed Sacrament on a carpet of flowers. 

 Fronleichnam Procession

Fronleichnam Procession

 Carpet of Flowers  By Franzfoto [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Carpet of Flowers

By Franzfoto [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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Where the Action Is!

The most notable Fronleichnam procession is held in Cologne on the Rhine River and is known as the Muelheimer Gottestracht.  Passengers can ride on some of the procession boats in this 500-year tradition, first celebrated in 1435.  The Mainz Cathedral is also known for its Fronleichnam service.  In the north Hessian city of Fritzlar, another old tradition is still celebrated: Katzenkopfschießen. This ritual, which takes place the evening before Fronleichnam, includes the ringing of the cathedral’s eight bells three times before the firing of several canons.  Other cities hold parades of varying sizes that often feature incense and bells with flowers decorating the procession’s path.

  Muelheimer Gottestracht in Cologne   By Jens Wahnes [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Muelheimer Gottestracht in Cologne

By Jens Wahnes [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons