Will you be the “Palmesel” on Sunday?

A donkey - ©iStockphoto.com/GlobalPWith this Sunday being Palmsonntag – Palm Sunday, one of the questions in many German families this weekend will be: “wer wird der Palmesel sein?” (who is going to be the “Palmesel”?)

The Palmesel – literally the “palm donkey” – is a nickname given to the last person to get out of bed on Palm Sunday.

The tradition is not new, but it has mutated over time as it was originally used to refer to the last boy to enter the Church on that day.

Of course, the term refers to the donkey ridden by Christ into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion, and since the middle ages German towns have held Palm Sunday processions – some with live donkeys, others with wooden ones.

Why are there no lorries on the roads on Good Friday?

It’s always nice to be returning from holiday or a weekend away on a Sunday, as there are very few lorries on the roads.  The reason for this is something called the “Wochenendfahrverbot”, a part of the German road-users law (StVO) which prohibits lorries from using the roads on Sunday before 10pm.

There are some exceptions, such as those delivering fresh produce, but in general it means that the roads, especially the motorways, are fairly empty and flow faster.

A hot cross bun - not something you usually see in GermanyBut what about on Good Friday?

When I was asked this yesterday, I thought I might be in for a lot of research, but in the end the answer was simple.  Just look in the relevant paragraph of the StVO.  That paragraph is known as §30 Abs. 4 – and contains a very straight forward answer.

Good Friday is listed by name as a day on which the Fahrverbot applies for all of Germany.

And before the same question comes up again next week – Easter Monday is too.

Gründonnerstag

Gründonnerstag is the German name for Maundy Thursday.  It is the day before Karfreitag.

On this day, people go to Church to be freed of their sins in order to make a “clean” start for Easter, thus leading to one explanation of the name: the idea is that “green wood” is said to be fresh.

Another reason for the name may be that it is the end of the fasting season, and people used to eat mainly vegetables on this day.

It is a normal working day, although many people do take the day off to go away for a long weekend.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

(Press the “play” button to listen to the podcast)

Download a transcript

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