Bavarians - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Roman Catholicism (69.9 percent of the Bavarian population in 1970) is the Religion of Old Bavaria, whereas the Evangelical (Lutheran) church (25.7 percent) predominates in Franconia. Both Religions are officially recognized and supported by the state. Bavaria was one of the centers of the Old Catholic movement, a schism resulting from the papacy's stand on infallibility in the 1870s. Religious festivals have always been an integral part of life in Old Bavaria; church dedication, or Kirchweih, was Especially significant. This three-day harvest festival became so economically disruptive that in 1803 all Kirchweih feasts were required by law to be celebrated within the same three-day period, a practice which continues today. Fasching, the Bavarian version of carnival, begins in early January with Numerous costume balls and continues to the day before Ash Wednesday. In addition to the regular church holidays such as Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost, the patron saints of the markets, artisan groups, and other organizations were also honored. Even today, Bavaria has fourteen official holidays, more than any other German state. Bavarian Catholics tend to be more regular in church attendance than their Protestant neighbors; however, as in many Roman Catholic countries, a serious shortage of priests has resulted in a growing lay ministry.

Arts. Old Bavaria has experienced a renaissance in all aspects of the folk arts. Bavarian folk costumes, or Trachten, are worn increasingly for both formal and informal occasions. The woman's Dirndl, a tight-bodiced, full-skirted outfit worn with a contrasting white blouse and apron, is especially Popular, as are Lederhosen, leather shorts for men. Original folkmusic compositions and traditional tunes are played on traditional instruments such as the Hackbrett, or chimes, the zither, and the folk harp, or sung by soloists or groups. Folk dancing—especially the Schuhplattler, or slapping dance—is also popular, and many communes may have two or more groups devoted to various aspects of folk culture. A lively folk literature consisting of stories and poetry in dialect is regularly featured in local newspapers, books, and television.

Medicine. In addition to their efficient modern medical system Bavarians are interested in herbal medical cures, and herbal teas are available in most local pharmacies. Midwives are common and are trained and licensed by the state.

Death and Afterlife. Bavarians are generally pragmatic about death. They observe the religious death rituals normally found in the Roman Catholic or Protestant liturgy. Death notices are published in the local press by family Members, by appropriate voluntary associations, and by the firm where the deceased was currently or formerly employed. In addition to a sequence of memorials held for the first year of death, the deceased is remembered on All Saints' Day on 4 November when family members gather in the cemeteries, clean and decorate the graves, and participate in a religious service.


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