Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dancing into May

It's a misty Spring morning here in Zeeland, and the sun is just rising, creating a soft pink backdrop for our church's steeple. Oudelande is still quiet, but not for long.

Today is Koninginnedag, a much-loved official holiday here in The Netherlands, and while stores may be closed, there will be no shortage of food and goodies to buy at the various "vrijmarkts" during the day's festivities.

Lukas' new bike is all decked out in orange and I've chosen the boys' little outfits for the big (ok, small) parade -- set to take place here in the tiny Dutch town of Oudelande.

Festivities start at 9 and include face-painting and a puppet show, and at 10:30 the town's children will ride their orange-clad bicycles down the old brick road as part of the annual parade. The afternoon's games and activities are reportedly geared more towards the older children and their parents, the latter of whom will be slightly inebriated (some slightly and some moderately, and still others mind-bogglingly sober).

While I would love to stay and see the town in full-festive mode, we'll have to leave just after the parade to make it down to Franconia in time for the 1st of May festivities... namely Neunkirchen am Brand's "Wurzhütten-Kerwa".

Organized by Tobi's father and a large group of friends, it's a huge deal for Tobi and something he hates to miss, which explains our 650km trek (x2) for a short 3-day trip. That's not to say that I don't enjoy it, too. The annual festival takes place up on a hill above the neighboring towns, and although only a short hike is required to reach it (there's a parking lot just 10 minute's walk away), many people will walk there from Neunkirchen and the surrounding villages. That's about an hour's hike through some of the area's prettiest fields and orchards, many of which boast bloom-filled cherry and apple trees at this time of year.

Known in Germany as "Tag der Arbeit" and "Maifeiertag", the 1st of May is a much-celebrated official holiday throughout Europe, tracing its roots all the way back to Roman times. At that time it was Floria - goddess of flowers - at the heart of festivities, and while today's celebrations have lost their religious significance, the adoration of everything Spring still remains.

If only we had more time... we'd join friend's in Munich to celebrate "Walpurgisnacht" tonight. Another historic European holiday, those celebrating Walpurgisnacht "dance into" May -- often with "Hexentänze", or witch dances. Looks like we'll have to put that one on next year's calendar! Now if you'll excuse me, I have some parties to prepare for, and last-minute packing to do!

How will you dance into May?

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