Tag Archives: Germany

A very German Easter

As a German-English family we like to include traditions from both cultures in our Easter celebrations so we celebrate both a German Easter and English Easter.

The first Easter I spent in Germany, I was astounded by all the beautiful Basteln (crafts) and Osterschmuck (Easter decorations). Walking around the neighbourhood, I saw many Osterbäume (Easter trees) festooned with Ostereier (Easter eggs). Many of the houses also had beautiful Fensterbilder (homemade window decorations).

I love crafts and decorating so I brought home many materials, magazines and templates to make our own Easter crafts.

In the week leading up to Easter we go up into the loft to bring down our decorations, which grow in number each year. Last year we were in Germany for Easter, so we brought home some beautiful decorations. My favourite is the Osterkranz (Easter wreath): I love the pastel colours and it is something not often seen in the UK. It was also an absolute Schnäppchen (bargain)!

 

We love to decorate a branch with brightly coloured eggs. We decorated our own plastic ones with pens the first few years. We’ve bought more plastic ones to add to our collection in following years. As we decorated it this year, my older daughter started to talk about the Osterbaum. I was surprised she still remembered the word.pic

In our home we know it is almost Easter as Oma’s Osterpaket arrives from Germany. It is brimming with lots of yummy German food and chocolate, ready for Easter.

Pic

Before Easter my girls often make Easter bonnets to wear to school.

On Karfreitag (Good Friday) we go to church as a family to think about Jesus’ death on the cross, and what that means to us personally.

My husband has described Karsamstag in Germany to us, with the lighting of the Paschal candle to mark the period from Easter to Pentecost. Many churches also have an Osterfeuer, which dates back to pagan times: a time for the young people of the church to have fun together.

On Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) our children get up to find their baskets filled with Chocolate (Osterhasen) Easter Bunnies (must be Milka) and lots of delicious things zum Naschen. We also buy them an English Easter egg in a box. Maik, my husband, always had a few small gifts for Easter so we’ve continued this tradition with our own children – usually a book, stationery, or something they have asked for in the run up to Easter.

We all head to church together to celebrate Easter with our church family. It is a very special service with music, dance, and readings where the whole family is involved.

At some point in the weekend we have an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
As spend time playing games together.

As Monday is a Bank holiday in the UK, we take time to have a roast dinner together and head out for a walk in the afternoon.

Some years at Easter, we have visited my family in the Yorkshire Dales. My parents have friends who are sheep farmers, so we have been lucky enough to watch a lambing and help bottle feed the orphan lambs.

To me, Easter is a time of hope, of celebrating that the dark days of winter are over and the days are getting lighter and longer.

As we have two cultures and languages in our family, I think we are so much richer for embracing them both.

How does your family celebrate Easter?

Our coin tin

My husband collected and swapped foriegn coins from his youth. When we married I added a few coins to his collection my grandparents had given me. 

Our children like to look through the tin and comment on the large amount of money daddy has.  Whilst looking through today we can across this coin. In the depression of the 1920’s emergency money was printed so that was not too odd. 

Written on the coin is KLEINGELDERSATZMARKE *1920*

MAGISTRAT DER STADT DEUTSCH-FYLAU

As we tried to find more about Deutsch-Fylau we saw this …

The East Prussian plebiscite of 1920 ostesibly allowed the residents to cast votes either in favor of remaining in Germany or becoming a part of Poland. The vote was largely boycotted by ethnic Poles, amid in mass persecution of Polish activists by the German side, going as far as engaging in regular hunts and murder against them to influence the vote. Ultimately the town voted to remain in Germany by 4,746 to 235 votes. It became part of Regierungsbezirk West Prussia in the Province of East Prussia.

After World War II the region was placed under Polish administration by the Potsdam Agreement under territorial changes demanded by the Soviet Union. Most Germans fled or were expelled and replaced with Poles expelled from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.

A lot of history from a small coin, nicht wahr?

Nie wieder Deutschland Never again Germany

As we were spending time in Osnabrück, Germany I noticed some stencilled signs on walls. Graffiti but it had a really poignant message. Nie wieder Deutschland, Never again Germany.

nie-wieder

 

As a German and English family we find the whole discussion about the second world war tricky.

We wrote about it last year.  I really like how the the Germans remember the war. Keep discussing it so we don’t forget and neither do our children.

Walking down the street a few years ago I noticed some brass cobbles with writing on. On closer inspection I noticed what they said.

 

 

It was sobering to realise that real people, living normal lives had lived in this street and had been forcibly removed and murdered simply for being Jewish.

 

Some of the recent discussion about Brexit and the outright racism that seems to be now acceptable makes talking about the second world war and other genocide more and more important. A person’s religion or race should not determine their lives. Until we live in a very different society, I will tell my children what happened so together we can say “Nie wieder, Never again”

OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?

I’ve heard it said many times that one parent one language (OPOL) is the best if not only way of family language learning. It is often held up as the Holy Grail of bilingual families.
In our home OPOL was not possible, as my husband was not keen to do this. He’d only lived in England two years by then and felt consolidating his English was most important. I’m native English and had studied German to GCSE, so started to pass on what I knew when our son was small. Maik did help me work on my German, so me and my son were learning together. We found some French books in a local shop when he was a little over a year and we started to read those to him now and again.

Il fait comment le caméléon?

Il fait comment le caméléon?


It was all very ad hoc, and in the very early internet days we did not come across anyone doing the same. I just felt it was important so we shared German books together, recited days of the week in the car, sung along to nursery rhyme CDs, counted on the swings, played with toys which spoke German and watched German DVDs together as well as German satellite TV. My thinking was to give as much language exposure as possible which he could build on in school. Yearly visits to Germany provided a good chance for him to meet German speaking people and practice speaking. Food vocab was considered most important! We celebrated German festivals like Martinstag and Nikolaustag together. It was hard work and I was not sure how much difference it was making.
A few years later my girls were born and I met a few German speaking mums with similar age children. It was so encouraging to be able to speak to someone outside our family in German and talk with them about how they brought German into their family. We shared books, DVDs and CDs which was great. We also found out about a German Lutheran church about an hour away so we were able to join with them for Martinstag and Nikolaustag.Nikolaus Boots
My children are not fluent in German but can understand a lot and communicate in the country. My son can easily pick up native accents (and mimic regional accents too) and speaks better Dutch than his parents. I put this down to hearing and using a few languages from a young age. My six year old was astounded when I told her some families only speak English.

So back to the opening question, OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?
I think there is no best way of family language learning. Raising multilingual children is a flexible and very personal process, do what works for you and your family, make it part of your lifestyle. It needs to be something which works for you and your family in the long term.
Bilingualism is a massive asset to your children in the long term and as parents we are so fortunate to be able to give it to our children. Just do what works for you all and enjoy the journey together.

What has been your family experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or you could even write us a guest blog.

Shine light in the darkness -Martinstag

Today we met with lots of other German families to celebrate St Martin’s day. (Martinstag) This is commonly celebrated by all in Germany whether they go to church or not.

Sankt Martin

We heard the story of St Martin.

Sendung mit der Maus

He choose to share what he had with a beggar. In that sharing of his cloak he gave the man warmth and comfort. He stopped what he was doing to make a difference for that one man and so is still remembered today for his kindness.

German children remember this by making lanterns and walking in the dark singing songs.

During the service the children were asked about people having difficulties who needed God’s light to shine on them. The children wanted to remember those without homes, Oma and Opa, those who were sick, soldiers and those in Paris.

Kerzen

After the service we went out with about other families to shine our lights into the darkness.

We sung

“Ich gehe mit meiner Laterne,und meine Laterne mit mir,
Da oben leuchten die Sterne und unter da leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus ich gehe nach Haus
rabimmel, rabammel rabumm – bumbum!”

“Laterne, laterne, Sonne Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne”

“This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let shine, let it shine”

There were lots of home made lanterns from the very basic to intricate 3D foxes. We had some Oma sent with electric candles. We have used real candles before but they set on fire and had to be stamped out!!

We do this each year as a chance to meet with other German speaking families. It is a great visual reminder of how even a little light makes a difference in the darkness.

Do you celebrate Martinstag with your family?
How do you pass on your culture to your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

Singing four languages in forty minutes.

Yesterday as a family we went along to a multicultural, multinational event called Go Fest.

As a family we think it is very important for our children to see and experience different cultures.
We went along to a multicultural concert by Resonance
Resonance

In forty minutes we had learned and sung along in Farsi, Hindi, Bemba and Urdu. My young girls were soon singing along and shaking their shakers. They loved the Indian drum and handheld Indian cymbals. We found a few phrases we recognised like “Jai Ho” There was a lot of repetition of phrases which really helped us pick the songs up quickly. Us older ones had a lot of fun as well!

One of the group, Rob Baker is an Ethnomusicologist. He studies music in it’s cultural context and spent a long time in West Africa capturing local music and helping people compose songs in their own language. Exciting stuff!

Music is a brilliant way to engage with other cultures and languages. Is there an event you know about your family can join in? Let us know how it goes!

Resonance
run song writing workshops encouraging groups to write songs in their native language and so strengthen their cultural identity. The band are from Singapore, Britain, Italy and Germany. Some of the band members have spent a lot of time in Mali and Tibet and so studied the culture and music of the countries.