Tag Archives: walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht and Tanz in den Mai

It’s a big night tonight in the Fatherland!

If you happen to be a witch, warlock, hobgoblin or demon (and I think some of my regular commentators would fall into one of those categories) then this is Walpurgis night – the night when you are allowed to fly about on broomsticks and cause trouble. Of course, as a modern German miscreant, causing trouble probably means filing your income tax late or failing to have the emissions tested on your car… but if you want to do the traditional thing, you’ll fly on a broomstick to the Brocken (tallest peak in the Harz mountains) where the coven will be celebrating. Apparently.

Germans behaving in a disorderly manner.

For those of us (and I include myself in this) that are altogether less witchlike or demonic, or just don’t happen to own a functional flying broom, the alternative is to pop down to the local pub. They will be celebrating Tanz in den Mai tonight – fundamentally this is a dance to welcome the Spring… the name indicates that we’ll be dancing the month of May in, rather than dancing in the month of May, if you get my drift.

The actual quality of the dancing tonight will be largely determined by the amount of the Maibowle which has been consumed. This is a lethal German weapons-grade fizzy punch which contains the world’s most obnoxious herb – Waldmeister (woodruff).

The Maibowle... a recipe which must never be allowed to fall into the hands of Germany's enemies...

In my experience, the effect of the Maibowle on a living human organism is to cause a vast increase in physical energy combined with almost total muscular paralysis. The result is that you will end up dancing like a demented stick insect, although for some reason you will be convinced you are performing Swan Lake at the Bolshoi. The spiking of your drink with Waldmeister adds the complication that you might actually hurl the entire contents of your digestive system at any moment….as may all the people performing stick-insect pirouettes around you.

Waldmeister is so noxious that the German tobacco industry is actually banned from incorporating it into its products. So what do the Germans do? They feed it to their kids.   Sweets, desserts, fizzy pop…. the list of treats which are infested with the stuff is endless.  When attending kids’ parties in Germany I make it a firm rule never to eat or drink anything that’s green. If it’s too nasty for the tobacco industry, I’m not eating it.

Woodruff flavoured jelly. WHY?

So tonight, I’ve decided that the lesser of the evils will be to mount my Vileda Wischmop and fly off to the Harz mountains. Let’s hope there’s only eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog in the cauldron!




Filed under About Germany, food, German festivals, Life in Germany

Beware of German witches!

This week I was afflicted by a cold which developed severe German complications.

I should probably start by saying that the cold itself was a mild one. No fever, no sore throat, barely a sniffle… and of course, not being a proper German yet, I haven’t managed to locate my Kreislauf, so that wasn’t upset in the slightest. No, it wasn’t the sort of cold you’d really mention – let alone blog about, if it hadn’t been the start of everything.

You see, on Monday morning I had just walked into the kitchen with my colleague, Birgit, when I sneezed violently.

It wasn’t a small sneeze… it was one of those eruptive sneezes that come from nowhere like a shotgun going off unexpectedly which  scares the chickens two miles away. A sort of nasal explosion. I think it may have shifted the earth’s rotation slightly. Thank Heaven it wasn’t Ruhezeit yet.

The impact of this monstrous sneeze made itself instantly felt in the form of a sort of whip-crack in my lower spine. A pain like a bolt of lightening shot from the small of my back to my knees and up to my shoulders. At that moment I became rooted to the spot because suddenly, any movement – like say, breathing or blinking – seemed to cause excruciating pain in my lower spine. The only thing I could do was clutch the nearest chair for support and gasp.

Birgit looked at me suspiciously as though I’d suddenly developed leprosy.

“You sneezed. Is that a cold?”

“My back. I’ve done something to my back.”

I could tell from the expression on Birgit’s face that she assumed this to be another piece of British ignorance about the human anatomy.

“Nose,” she corrected me.

“No… I’ve got a sudden pain here.” I pointed at my lower spine with one hand while still supporting myself on the chair with the other.

Birgit’s face eased into an amused grin.

“Aha… that’s a Hexenschuss.”

“A what?”

“A Hexenschuss. You know – what you get when a witch points her finger at you and curses you.”

In nearly twenty years of living in the Fatherland, I had been under the impression that Germans were relatively competent when it came to medical matters and advanced science. My occasional experiences of German hospitals had always given me the impression that proper diagnosis and the latest hi-tech treatments were on offer. Now, the illusion was crumbling before my eyes. The diagnosis – from a real live university-educated German – was that my sudden pain was caused by a witch’s curse.

Moreover, in the absence of anyone else in the building, I had to conclude that the only suspect in the case had to be Birgit herself. In the week running up to Halloween, she was obviously getting her finger in practice, ahead of causing real mischief at the weekend.

Germany, of course, has a long tradition of witches and witchcraft – though Halloween is a foreign import. Real German witches focus on Walpurgisnacht on 30th April. I suspect that for German Hexen Halloween just counts as a sort of American theme party.


As I hobble over to get my coffee I surreptitiously check Birgit over for broomsticks and pointy hats.There are no obvious telltale signs… but then I guess German witches blend into the general population fairly easily.

German witches blending into the general population


Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany