23 March, 2007

Innocence And Civil Manners

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web wrote a funny post about attending a Sommertagszug procession in her hometown. This is a procession, which is carried out in order to scare off winter; they parade around like busy spring creatures and burning snowmen to welcome in springtime.

One of her readers commented on the fact that in the States they probably wouldn’t allow public burning of snowmen, as is customary in the Sommertagszug. It made me think of our Summer Folks Festival parade, which announces the beginning of the summer fairgrounds and summer festival. There are people participating in the parade that you might not always see in other countries. This parade is long (takes over two hours to pass our living room window) and it consists of the craziest mix of local lore riding on floats, trucks, tractors or marching on foot.
They have, of course, the normal marching bands, politician riding in convertibles, all of the different clubs (e.g. amateur theatre, quilting, American football, gymnastics), but the parade also hosts a few strange bedfellows. My favourites are the two disco trucks playing techno music and gyrating young folk and the Squatters Alternative group (a group of squatters living in caravans on a squatter’s paradise just off the island of Luebeck). The group I like the least always come at the end and it is the gun club, shooting off old muskets, which make so much noise children cry and adults swear.

But, what I like is the fact there is room for all of these people in the grand scope of things.

There is even a quaint custom of throwing candy into the crowd of on-watchers, which I can’t imagine being allowed to happen in the States. The children (and some adults) keep rushing into the streets between the floats and marching bands scooping up any left over candies. All the other children jump up and down and catch the candy as it is being thrown to them from the people in the floats.

I have this sense of the world being still quite innocent, watching children run up and down the streets, alongside the floats catching the candy, and no one saying this isn’t hygienic, or even, this could be dangerous. Or, allowing people from intrinsically different poles of the social spectrum (e.g. squatters and gun guys) all the same chance to participate in the festivities. What could be a better show of civil manners?

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