“Festive Culture in Germany” – KAAD seminar in Nittendorf
A celebration / festivity is nowadays often recognized as nothing else than a commercial event or it is reduced to its drinking and dining component. Another prejudice is that there is anyway only one category of celebrations – and therefore no need to devote time and effort to investigate on “the culture of celebrating”. During the seminar “Festive Culture in Germany” which took place from June, 18th to 21st in Nittendorf (lead by Dr. Heinrich Geiger and spiritually accompanied by Prof. Dr. Thomas Eggensperger) the 27 participants quickly realized that these assumptions are mainly clichés. The aim of the seminar was to identify and analyze festive culture in its various forms and manifestations. Festivities have a long tradition, as the first speaker, Prof. Dr. Josip Gregur (Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Augsburg) pointed out by quoting philosopher Josef Pieper who was saying that there are secular but not insignificant celebrations. He referred to the Old Testament. Moses says: “Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.”
The evidence of festivities are numerous. They were presented in detail by Prof. Gregur as well as by the second speaker of the seminar, Florian Schwemin (local heritage society of Upper Palatinate). Noting that celebrations are always realized by a particular group of people, i.e. by a certain community, both speakers stressed the performative character: Celebrations have to take place. Their function is to relief a particular community on a specific occasion from the enslavement of everyday life.
By the participants of the seminar, who came from a wide variety of cultures, the aspect of “justification” of a festivity was lively discussed. Celebrations such as Carnival are always tied to traditional dates. They have a firm cause, but, strictly speaking, no purpose beyond themselves. And they are often characterized by excess. This was criticized by the representatives of the Age of Enlightenment. In their opinion, the festivity needed a purpose; it had to be educational. The claim was to design a new, an enlightened festive culture, which should, according to the theorists of the Enlightenment, improve people’s character.
Finally, both aspects of the festive culture, the purpose-less and the purpose-based, could be experienced by the participants themselves: in the course of a half-day excursion in Regensburg and its environment.