I'd been meaning to undertake this project for the last 7 years ever since i moved from England to Germany. Last year i managed to go along with a group of men on their 'Manner Tag' or fathers day here in Eastern Germany. Do read the story attached if you have the time. It's written in a light hearted mode and I hope you enjoy it.
The Big Drink
Fathers Day in Germany
If you were under the impression that the German nations biggest drinking event is Oktoberfest with the Munich Beer Festival you'd be mistaken. Father's Day or "Männertag" (Men's Day), as it's called in East Germany, is celebrated on Ascension Day (the first Thursday forty days after Easter) and is considered by many to be in the country's premier division for alcohol consumption. Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, describes Father's Day in Germany as: "Many men use this holiday as an opportunity to get drunk. The tradition of getting drunk is especially prevalent in Eastern Germany." Father's day in Germany can trace its origins back to the Middle Ages when religious processions honouring "Gott, den Vater" were held. However, at some point during the 19th century the purely Christian roots of the celebrations began to go a little bit astray. By the 20th century alcohol consumption had become firmly imbedded in the days activities, even more since Ascension Day is a public holiday in Germany. The Friday after is often taken off to make up to a long weekend, with the latter part being used as recovery from the inevitable splitting hangover Father's Day produces. Liberated from their parental responsibilities the men folk of Germany will embark on a day dressed in peculiar attire, riding in groups in horse drawn carriages furnished with intoxicating supplies. If on foot, a wagon is pulled behind, filled to the brim with schnapps, cognac, beer, wine and mixers. Bicycles are also ridden, equipped with saddlebags to hold the precious alcoholic cargo.
Joining the 7-man team of the "Dornitzer Himmelfahrtskommando" (a German word play literally translated as the "Dornitzer Suicide Squad" with "Himmelfahrt" also referring to Ascension Day) and travelling by horse drawn carriage through the lanes and tracks of Saxony-Anhalt in Eastern Germany for the day is a relatively straightforward affair: "You just need to bring a bottle of whiskey", says 70 year old Horst Ziegler, the coordinator of the group. "It's for the horse", he adds with a smile. Several hours of preparation in the morning of Father's Day go into the decoration of their "Männertag" wagon. Preplanning on a near military level, allocating duties for the provision of food and the all-essential supply of alcohol, has already taken place at a morning meeting of the men the previous Sunday. Gathering at 9am for the preparations, the group leave Dornitz at around 11am, embarking on a round trip of some 25 kilometres eventually returning home a little worse for wear at around 6pm. The trip takes them through Frößnitz, the Petersberg, Merbitz and then back to the home base. A ghetto blaster has been linked up to a car battery on board for the mandatory all day music, littered with some bygone favourite tunes that everyone can sing along to. A few points on the map have over time become long established "watering holes" where the wagon pulls up and old friends are encountered and schnapps is offered to the thirsty pilgrims.
However, the traditional face of "Männertag" as a stronghold for men to let "the inner me" come to the surface is gradually changing: "More and more girls are allowed in and taking part", Horst complains. "Eventually, maybe in 10 years time, it will be more of a family day" (as it already is in most of the western parts of the country). Nevertheless, the "Dornitzer Himmelfahrtskommando" are making hay while the sun still shines, and after 30 litres of beer, one and a half litre of Vodka, Whiskey and numerous accompanying shorts of schnapps plus mixers, their livers are still mercifully intact and they look forward to next year's celebration of all things male.
Craig Stennett © 2015