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Christi Himmelfahrt May 25, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Although I was christened at the tender age of three weeks, I must say I was none the wiser that today was Christi Himmelfahrt until the cashier in my local supermarket wished me a happy holiday yesterday. I, naturally, assumed she just hadn’t taken her lithium or that it was a sneering snide at my only having purchased a packet of fags, and it was dangerously close to the 8pm closing time, but thanked her for her kind words anyway. Holiday? On a Thursday? In late May? You mad old brush. But then a beautiful friend – hereinafter known as the beautiful friend (tbf), perhaps – told me yesterday that today was indeed Christi Himmelfahrt and that folk would be driving round town on their bikes with a siphon coming out of their backpacks delivering beer straight to where it’s meant to go. Which doesn’t sound very religious to me, but then if gorging at Christmas and Easter does the trick, why not at Christi Himmelfahrt too?

I didn’t have a clue what Christi Himmelfahrt translated to either until about 14 seconds ago when I whipped my hefty dictionary out. I’d noticed the word Himmelfahrt before, because, down to a  little bit of linguistic autism, I’d noticed there was another feast day called Mariä Himmelfahrt and it’s not often you get an umlaut on the end of a word. (Unless you have the good fortune to be a Finn, of course. When it’s not really an umlaut anyway.) (Quick Finnish lesson: ‘night’ is ‘yö’, pronounced oo-er, only a hundred times quicker.) Turns out that Himmelfahrt means ‘ascension into heaven’, and today is, thus, Ascension Day. The Mariä variation on the theme – just remembered a story. A Russian child I worked with once commented on the difference between two versions of a prayer. Once he’d clocked it, he summed up for my benefit, “Ah, so that’s the Catholic remix of the Orthodox one,” – is Assumption, although I don’t know what was assumed when Mary made her way skywards. (I suppose she assumed, rightly, for there had been plenty of portentous omens, that she’d have a very privileged position when she got there. But I’ll have to go into scripture in greater depth to see if that’s the actual cause.)

Now I thought I knew my Christianity. I am not a Christian any more, but I went to a Christian school. We had a service once a week. We had RE lessons. I got my RE ‘O’ Level. (Grade C, but still.) I thought I knew my Pentecost from my Whitsun from my Himmelfahrts. But I just simply don’t. Awash in 2000 years of Christian culture and I don’t know my arse from my elbow. Which I won’t lose much sleep over, but I have been worrying that this ascension took place 40 days after Easter. So what happened in between? I thought Christ went off to be at the right hand of the father as soon as he was resurrected. Or did the 40 days in the wilderness come then, which seems a bit like rubbing in the cruelty, if you ask me.

My ignorance pales into insignificance, though, when I compare myself to our cousins outre-Manche. I lived in Paris for a couple of years when just a slip of a thing and stayed with an extremely nice family when I first arrived. Extremely nice. Fucking unglaublichly nice, actually. (I was just checking if I could reduce myself to tears. I can’t.) France, being an avowedly secular place, obviously wouldn’t have a Christian assembly at the start of the school day. No, if you wanted god in France, you had to go to a specifically religious school. And the family I lived with were atheists anyway. And one half – the wrong half – was Jewish, so this family seriously didn’t know its Christianity. This didn’t concern me overly much, but I was pretty stunned when, as we watched TV one evening and Serge Gainsbourg’s interesting take on the Nativity was shown, the younger daughter of the family asked me, “So who was that Joseph geezer then?” I’m not expecting any Happy Ascension wishes from her, let me tell you.

But why I’ve really noticed Christi Himmelfahrt is because it’s made me feel normal. It’s a non-working day here, and I’m on an enforced holiday with the rest of the populace (98% of whom are unemployed anyway). I’m awaiting a piece if work, thought I’d have it today, the deadline is short for my depleted grey matter and a family occasion beckons in the Kingdom this weekend. And my employers have gone and slunk off work for the day. And I bet there’s not a Christian amongst them. The shower…

(Utterly random joke, told to me by tbf’s (German) friend yesterday. “What do you call a miserable German?” “I don’t know, tbf’s friend, what do you call a miserable German?” “Sauerkraut” Boom boom.)



1. Bowleserised - May 25, 2006

Apparently, in the GDR ChristenHimmelFart was “Men’s Day”, to balance out “Women’s Day”. I don’t know any more than that, mind.

2. daggi - May 26, 2006

It is indeed “Männertag” tonight, as was confirmed by the rather unpleasant experience of using both trams and the S-Bahn, and walking along the Greifswalder Straße.

The occasion of Männertag is traditionally marked by gangs of drunken men beating each other up on the streets, from early afternoon onwards. In Magdeburg, drunken fascists beat up black people as well as each other. A moment ago, I passed some drunken male neonazis (some wearing Burberry – what is German exactly for “chav scum”?) touching each other up in the manner you might expect to otherwise see in some of “Prenzlberg’s” (I do apologise for that, if only to myself) more “community”-based bars – was this the result of too much or too little alcohol?

P.S. Inforadio reports that Männertag has reached the Schönhauser Allee/Gleimstaße.

3. BiB - May 26, 2006

So it’s because they’re men they do the beer thing today, and nothing to do with Christ after all…

Daggi, the old gay Nazi thing. I think I’ve mentioned this somewhere before, and I know Mr. Hari has written on it. It’s an ashamedly common thing, I’m afraid to say. I actually met a gay Nazi here, himself Russian. I still get livid just thinking that he’s bothered to immigrate here and then bothered to become a Nazi to boot. I might have to use the c-word. Another Russian queen told me that the man in question was a Nazi. I couldn’t believe it and decided, drink taken, to ask him if it was true next time I bumped into him. He parried the question and suggested I’d had too much to drink. I said, “Look, S., I’m Jewish (which I’m not, but it seemed a good idea to go down this road at the time), are you really saying you want me dead?” At which point his companion, another Russian gentleman, took out a knife and I decided it was best to leave the conversation there.

On a subsequent occasion, I probed two (more normal) Russian acquaintances of his. They confirmed that he mixes in a group of gay Nazis. I once saw said group – thankfully they didn’t see me – near U-Bahnhof Vinetastr. The general public looked on in disgust, although I’m not sure if it was because they were Nazis or because they all kissed each other hello.

4. daggi - May 26, 2006

I’ve got a good amusing gay nazi story, but I don’t think I’ll tell it online. Which is one major difference between me and Hari (not that I would ever go as far as this – I mean in the ‘doing’, not the ‘storytelling’).

5. BiB - May 26, 2006

I suppose the gay Nazis my acquaintance is part of must have worked themselves out a get-out clause for being concurrently both gay and Nazis. Well, and gays were numerous amongst THE Nazis, of course, until Hitler ordered a purge.

Hmm, publishing stories about your conquests in The Graun? Translating’s a very boring job in comparison…

Oh, go on. Tell us your gay Nazi vignette.

6. daggi - May 26, 2006

4.15 am? A long translation?
I’ve had a week of going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 6. Made me feel very healthy. Well, sort of. Ridiculous though, when you think about it.

7. Welshy - May 26, 2006

The forty days AFTER Easter were spent “appearing” to people and teaching them, getting them ready for when he ascended etc. Just FYI.
Thanks for clearing the “himmelfahrt” thing – for some reason, although I recall hearing the word lots while I was in Germany, I couldn’t remember what it meant at all. But I LOVED your use of “unglaubichly”!
‘Unglaublich’ is my favourite German word (apart from ‘scharfskase’, possibly) and I am going to use ‘unglaubichly’ lots today! It’s unglaubichly rainy over here… etc etc

8. Welshy - May 26, 2006

PS Did all the cafes shut because it was a holiday? That used to really bug me…

9. Bowleserised - May 26, 2006

It’s some kind of logic thing, isn’t it? Men being amazing so then it follows that you sleep with them and not women (who are weak and clingy etc). Peculiar. I remember reading Susan Faludi’s book, Stiffed, which had an extraordinary account of one of those US military academies that was resisting the advent of women officer trainees.
The male recruits went through some bizarre ritual in which a senior recruit sort of rebirthed them and became their mother. And they were ALL sleeping with pre-op transexual prostitutes. But were very very sure that they weren’t gay. They didn’t want women in the mix because they thought they’d ruin the whole set up. Odd.

10. The Blind Flaneur - May 26, 2006

Let First Nations be your guide. As interpretations of the old testament go, it’s pretty faithful

11. Michael Scott Moore - May 29, 2006

I used to wonder who slept with pre-op transsexual prostitutes. My neighborhood in San Francisco was full of them, and I just never saw the point.

12. BiB - June 5, 2006

Aren’t all prostitutes, strictly speaking, pre-op transsexuals? I mean, in the sense that we are all pre-op transsexuals. I am pre-op, though have no intention of actually going through with any op whatsoever, but I wouldn’t like to have the chance of being pre-op taken away from me. I just simply bloody well am pre-op.

It’s taken me so long to get round to reacting to these comments that we’ve now moved on from Christi Himmelfahrt to Pfingsten, which is Pentecost, if I’m not mistaken. But I don’t know what Pentecost is either. It was discussed this very day with the Russian and my guests – this is why I’ve been silent – and the three of them each came up with a different version, and I came up with nothing at all, although I thought the pente- bit might mean something fivey. Hopeless.

13. Michael Scott Moore - June 5, 2006

Pentecost = fifty days after Easter. A moveable feast, like the best parties.

14. BiB - June 6, 2006

Mike, you are a fount of all knowledge. Expect me to avail of your services at similar crisis points of non-wisdom in future.


[…] we will follow the German tradition of Christi Himmelfahrt. We will fill a hand wagon with locally crafted hefeweizen, Gewürztraminer and schnapps, then pass […]

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