Beyond sauerkraut and lederhosen: the hidden side of German culture exposed


The smell of roasted almonds on the Christmas markets, the candles flickering in the windows, the notes of “Silent Night” drifting from the churches – this is German culture for David Gamble.

“If I could spend Christmas in America, I would choose to spend Christmas in Germany,” said Gamble, a sophomore in environmental engineering. “It’s so big and so spectacular.”

But most people don’t think of Christmas traditions when they picture German culture, he said. Most people think of sauerkraut, beer, football or lederhosen, said Claudia Schwabe, assistant professor of German at Utah State University.

But there’s more to German culture, Schwabe said, and she wants others to see that through art.

The exhibition German Kultur Pur, or Pure German Culture, consists of projects from Schwabe’s class that do not focus on stereotypical German culture and in a non-stereotypical midterms style.

“I wanted to give students creative control over their projects,” she said. “They could write a song or a poem, create a painting, do something digital, any skill really.”

The exhibit includes German fairy tales, handcrafted German Christmas decorations and even Wolpertingers.

Similar to the mythical jackalope of North America, the mythical Wolpertinger of Bavaria, Germany is a rabbit or squirrel with antlers, wings, duck legs and fangs.

David Horlacher, an undeclared freshman, first saw the plush replicas of the creatures while on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany.

He said even the locals didn’t seem to know much about Wolpertingers, but there was one tale that Horlacher said he came across while inquiring about the creature.

He said heard to see a Wolpertinger, a virtuous woman must walk alone in the woods with a man under the light of the moon.

Likely a ploy to get single men to get dates, Horlacher said.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “The way you catch one – it’s a little inappropriate – but it says in the myth that the woman has to flash the animal and then it gets dazed and confused. And that’s how we can catch them.

Although Wolpertingers are not real creatures, there is some truth behind their appearance. Shope’s papilloma virus causes tumors to grow on rabbits, often on their bodies. This causes horns to appear on the animal’s head and face, which may have given rise to the Wolpertinger, Horlacher said.

“It’s actually really sad, if you find a picture of that,” he said. “But they started this fable, this myth, from these animals.”

But not all the exhibited projects are mythical.

English senior Morgan Bronson knows a real part of German culture that few in America know.

At the time of the Berlin Wall, East Germany was separated from Western culture, she said. As a result, East Germans developed their own pop culture with icons like the red and green figure for “walking” or “not walking”, known as the ampelmann.

“It’s become a huge cultural thing, especially in Berlin,” Bronson said. “You can buy like t-shirts with him on it – wallets, keychains, anything you can think of you probably can, but an ampelmann on it.”

Food, music and even slow-driving cars called trabants are all returning in a wave of nostalgia in East Germany, she said.

Indeed, when the Berlin Wall came down, not everyone found the culture of East Germany appealing.

“All of a sudden when the wall came down, it’s not good anymore,” she said. “People were making fun of them and so it’s kind of a reclaiming of that identity.”

The exhibit moves from the library basement to the Taggart Student Center International Fair on October 30.

Until then, some of the projects will be on display in the basement of the library from October 26 to 29.

“My vision is to do it every year, let it get bigger and bigger,” Schwabe said. “And that maybe we can expand it not just to the German section, but to all classes, all languages ​​could participate so that students really see what else is there.”

[email protected] or @klamb92