It is October, it is Autumn and nature is dressing up for the occasion in shades of brilliant yellow, gold, red and brown. It is the time of the year the trees change colour from the lush green of the summer months to a riot of the autumn shades, like wild strokes of paint from the palette of an artist. A rewarding, almost wondrous sight for most travellers from the warmer climes of India, unused to such dramatic changes and colour in foliage. For nature lovers, “leaf peeping” is a relaxing way to unwind and enjoy long walks in the countryside or parks. All that is needed is a good pair of walking shoes, a warm jacket and the joy of cold, fresh air in the face.
Why do trees “change” colour in autumn? Interestingly, they do not. They remain true to all their colours, all the time. The yellow, red, gold and brown are covered by the green chlorophyll during the summer months and are not visible. As the days shorten and become colder, photosynthesis reduces and the leaves produce lesser chlorophyll. As the green recedes, the other colours reveal themselves in all their splendour. The most visible autumn colours are seen in the birch, maple, oak, beech and larch trees to name a few, which grow in abundance.
During this season, nature makes up for the subdued and conservative colours that Germans usually prefer in their clothes.
The Erntedankfest, thanksgiving for the harvest, is also celebrated early October in Churches with offerings of grains, fruits, vegetables as also honey and wine. These offerings are donated to charitable institutions.
Halloween, through traditionally not a German festival, has gained popularity in the recent past. Children are seen trick o' treating in gory costumes on the last day of October. Departmental stores have an entire section dedicated to Halloween, with masks, costumes, make-up and accessories for young and adult. An overabundance of pumpkins in supermarkets and marketplaces announces the season louder than words ever can. Cookbooks with pumpkin recipes are displayed prominently and placed again right next to the cashier, for those who decide at the last minute.
So how did Halloween come to Germany? Well, it took a long and winding route. The origins of Halloween, celebrating the harvest with song and dance can be traced back to the Celts, who inhabited what is today England, Ireland and northern France. In the 1800's, Catholic Irish immigrants carried the tradition of Halloween to America, which over time spread in popularity and became a secular celebration. It was imported in this form back to Europe and to Germany.
Signing off on that note from Frankfurt am Main,
10th October 2012