German holiday: Fronleichnam

Photo by Aleksandrs Tihonovs
Photo by Aleksandrs Tihonovs

German holiday: Fronleichnam

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

The last in the succession of Easter-related holidays in Germany is today, June 20, in the form of “Fronleichnam”, an important day for Catholic churchgoers in particular. The holiday also known by its Latin name, “Corpus Christi” or “Corpus Domini” comes 60 days after Easter Sunday and always falls on a Thursday. The day is an official public holiday in eight states of Germany, but not countrywide. The states in which it is celebrated include Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Anticipate closures of stores and businesses in these areas.

According to Christian belief, the rite of the Holy Communion or Eucharist was instituted by Jesus during the Last Supper, when he referred to the bread as his body and the wine as his blood and bid his disciples to eat and drink of these things in remembrance of him. Catholics believe that through the process known as Transubstantiation, the real presence of Christ is to be found in the bread and wine consumed in the Eucharist.

During the church service held on Fronleichnam, special attention is given to the blessing of the sacrament. In some places, the sacrament will be accompanied by a procession outside the church.

Depending on where in Germany you find yourself, you may see signs of this religious celebration.  In Mülheim, one of the city districts of Cologne, a procession takes place on a convoy of ships crossing the Rhine. The Kölntourist shipping agency offers package tours to those interested in taking part on board a ship. A lake procession also takes place on the Staffelsee in Bavaria.

One of the most beautiful expressions of the day is to be found in the Black Forest. In the community of Mühlenbach, many of its some 1700 inhabitants rise early on what they refer to as Herrgottstag. This group of volunteers takes the flowers and petals they’ve been collecting in the previous days and places them on the pavement to create an elaborate patterned floral carpet stretching around one kilometer in length and about 60 cm wide. Later in the day, a procession of celebrants in traditional costume passes over it.

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