Luther's Hochzeit (Luther's Wedding) celebration

Trip Start Apr 30, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Monday, June 11, 2007

This entry may end up being our longest one yet as there is so much to show and tell about this amazing celebration of the marriage of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora.  
Every year in June, 100,000 visitors join the Luthers Hochzeit celebration in Wittenberg.   The wedding of a renegade monk and a runaway nun was quite a scandal in 1525. All of Wittenberg comes alive with this event.   As one travel brochure states, "Until late at night there will be haggling, pottering around, drinking, singing and celebrating."  I'm not sure what pottering around is, but I will watch for it!! 
As the week unfolded tradespeople were setting up booths and stations for selling trinkets, drinks, food, name it, someone was selling it! 
People who came dressed in period costume were allowed to enter the city for free, but for the rest of us the cost was 5 euros that covered the cost of a medallion that you had to wear whenever you were in the central city.  There were people stationed at all entries to the city to check for your medallion. 

There was music everywhere.  Near our apartment we listened to everything from Bruce Springsteen to Celtic music.  The main stage area in the Market Square, by the Rathaus (city hall), featured live bands and singing groups from all over.  On Saturday as we were sitting in the Market Square eating our lunch, it was delightful to see this huge crowd of hundreds of people ranging in age from a few months to over 80, singing their hearts out and clapping along with the music.  Songs were sung in German, English, Italian, Spanish and probably more....but those were the languages I could pick out. 

On Friday the crowds started pouring into town and from then on there was a constant din or people walking into town from the three entryways.  On Friday night the crowd mingled until about 2 a.m. and on Saturday, well past 3 a.m.  Sunday night was so delightfully quiet for sleeping in comparison.  

On Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. the wedding parade began and continued on for one and a half hours.  It was a continuous parade of people from Wittenberg and neighboring villages and towns.  Some were re-enacting events of the Reformation and others just walked along, all in period costume.  The focus of the parade was, of course, Katie and Martin, who cheerfully waved to the people as they passed,
and were greeted with great applause from the crowds lining the streets.  We had the vantage point of a second story window as well as street level which are reflected in our photos.  The people who are "Katie and Luther" are chosen each year, and this year the man playing Martin Luther is a direct descendant of the Luther's brother, 14 generations later!   

After the parade, the partying continued into the wee hours of the morning with lots of drinking, buying&selling, eating and cheerful conversations.  At no time during the festivities did we see or hear any police involved in any mishap.  Amazing! 

Saturday night there was a church service in the Town Church where 20+ couples (including Bob and me) renewed their wedding vows.  This was all going one while we could hear the revelry outside.  An interesting experience.  Since this is the year of our 40th wedding anniversary, this was pretty special!

On Sunday, we took a bike ride out into the countryside and enjoyed the peace and quiet found there.  Upon returning to town, we found the streets again filling up with party-goers.  In the afternoon there was a "kinder" parade (children's parade) and you will see our photos from that as well.  There were two children who were "Katie and Luther" as well.  There were even babies in this parade!  Very cute!

We had responsibilities with a group who were visiting and so didn't see much of the closing ceremonies, but immediately the clean up began.  This included people washing the sidewalks around their stores, moving out all the "toi-toi"s, as well as all the make-shift shacks along the road.  Everywhere you went someone was sweeping, washing and packing up.  
This week was filled with excitement throughout the city because of the coming celebration of Luthers Hochzeit (see above). However, there was another sort of excitement this week as the G8 summit was held here in Germany.

Americans may not focus too much attention on such meetings, and even ignore some of the offensive comments made by our president, but it is not so here. The news media here did indeed notice when President Bush called the President of Russia by his first name, and reported the fact that President Bush said President Putin should not "hyperventilate" over America's plan to put rocket bases near Russia's borders.

The German church is not oblivious to these meetings either. Throughout Germany church rang bells for eight minutes at the opening of the G8 summit, a call to peace it is said. One's perspective here is different. The wounds of war a generation ago are still evident. War here is not something we send our young men away to fight. Here, war, when it happens is in our backyard. That makes a difference. It's a different perspective.

Here in the Wittenberg Cemetery is a field of over 1000 unmarked graves of those who died in WWII when the arms factories here were bombed. Many of the workers killed in this air raid were themselves refugees from other countries, folks displaced by the war. The European perspective on war is different than the American one.
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