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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 13, 2010

Father’s Day in Germany

Filed under Life in Europe

Today is Ascension Day in Germany, the day ten days before Pentecost when Jesus ascended into heaven. Here in Germany this day has become a traditional "Father’s Day" of sorts, when fathers – and some men who aren’t fathers– take off for a daylong outing to enjoy a few beers.

Some fathers are on foot, but many ride their bikes, with some trailing a small cart behind them loaded with a case of beer. There are regular stops to consume beer, causing civic groups and health authorities to issue pre-Ascension Day warnings about the dangers of consuming too much alcohol. In Germany, you can lose your driver’s license if you are a licensed driver and are found drunk while riding a bicycle. In 1998 Monica and I were on our way home after visiting a church family on Ascension Day. We did not have a car at the time because we had totaled our car in an accident on the Autobahn two months earlier. After arriving back in Bonn by train, we had to wait about an hour for the bus that would take us to our village about 6 km from Bonn. We decided to go to a nearby pub and have a beer before returning to the bus stop. In the pub we met 3 fellows who had been riding their bikes all day and doing the traditional "Father’s Day" thing. They looked it, too. I spoke to them in German and to Monica in English. I could hear them asking themselves if I was German. Then they asked me what I did for work. I jokingly answered that I worked for the CIA. I was quite surprised when they announced that they were my colleagues. They pulled out their id cards from a branch of the German defense ministry. They proudly told me that they had been on their bikes all day – and drinking. I told them that their day’s activities were quite visible. When the time for our bus came, we left the pub, and so did they. They were pushing their bicycles as they headed off in another direction, and I wondered how they were going to ride them anywhere. They had gotten pretty high on that particular Ascension Day!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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