Sense of community: Martinstag and Lehrertag 2016

Guten Tag Leute!

Today I feel tired after a busy week – let me tell you about it! This week’s experiences have got me thinking about community, participation, and how it makes me feel.

15050257_1179076542130055_1116128113_nLast Friday was Carneval in Germany. I was in Dusseldorf after my morning German course, and decided to take a trip into the city centre to watch the afternoon celebrations. A big group called the Regenbogen were all dressed in colourful costumes, and performed some great traditional carnival songs in German, such as “Min Ding is Din Ding” and “Düsseldorf macht sich fein“.

I was by myself and stayed away from the Bier tent, but nevertheless it was a fun atmosphere, if a little chilly!

The following day (last Saturday) the traditional Martinstag was also celebrated throughout the country. St Martin’s Day. Saint Martin was a Roman knight who, legend says, shared his cloak with a beggar on a cold night to save him. You can read more about the tradition here.

horse-st-martins-day
Blurry photo, but you can see Saint Martin parading through the village on his white horse!

I had my own unique experience of Martinstag in my village in Nordrhein-Westfalen. At 18.00, most of the village’s young children and families gathered at the village cross: the central meeting point in the village. The children had made their own paper lanterns at school and everyone, young and old, were involved in the parade (called Laternelaufen). In keeping with the legend, a man dressed as Saint Martin rode a horse through the village, and was followed by a brass band. The village was lit up with the warm glow of all the children’s lanterns, and everyone started to walk and sing together:

Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne
Und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne,
Hier unten, da leuchten wir…

15046226_1180253895345653_1500264126_nAt first I wasn’t sure where to stand, where to walk, what to do, as I felt like an outsider in this important annual tradition that connects families in the village. But once I chatted to a few people, and the music started, I felt at ease. I felt so happy surrounded by the warmth of the bonfire, and the bold rhythm of the brass band.

When the procession came to an end and the children received their sweets, I was welcomed into my landlady’s home to enjoy Gluhwein (mulled wine) with her and her family, and then ended up staying for some delicious soup and more wine. I got to know her children and their children, and a couple of members of the choir were there too!

I felt the community feeling again on Monday, as most of Lehrerzimmer 5 (staffroom for Class 5 teachers) went out for lunch together at a local restaurant before Lehrersprechtag (parents’ evening, which I thankfully was not involved in). Of course, I selected the Schnitzel option! I hope we can go out together more, as I would really like to get to know some of the teachers better.

On Tuesday evening, I enjoyed another practise with the warm-hearted choir group. It doesn’t matter that I get some notes wrong, or mix up the German lyrics, because I’m joining in with them, and I get the feeling they welcome that. Practising all the Christmas songs reminds me of being in the school choir, and although I am sadly not available to sing at the choir’s concert, simply practising the Christmas songs with everyone is enough for me.

lehrertag

dortmundThe big highlight of this week was yesterday. I woke up early and travelled to Dortmund for Germany’s annual conference on education (Deutscher Lehrertag 2016). Interestingly, this year the overarching theme of the conference was integration and inclusion in schools. I attended some workshops on the integration of refugees in English lessons, as well as a stimulating podium discussion between politicans and education representatives, including the Kultusministerin (Minister of Education) for Lower Saxony. I met a few interesting new people, including a government advisor for Special Education, whose son also has dyspraxic traits. Many publishers were present with their book stands, too – I couldn’t resist buying a few more books to add to my collection…

Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) have now started in many places – I’m looking forward to feeling the Christmas spirit over the next few weeks, when I visit a few of my friends in other cities!

Schönes Wochenende noch,

misspraxic

 

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