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Archive for May, 2012

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City of dreaming spires, etc etc! When I first got back I sent an exhausted and rather breathless email to Heidi saying: “London actually exists. Oxford is such a perfect place it makes me feel guilty that I saw it.” And it wasn’t just for effect. I actually felt guilty for finally seeing Oxford, which might tell you a little more about me than about Oxford, but nevertheless. A northwesterner like me can’t really believe these places weren’t just invented for bookish convenience.

We were staying in Katherine’s friend’s apartment, who was out of town for the weekend. The whole place was covered in books, which is exactly the kind of place I like. We got there pretty late at night and immediately went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning and looked out the window, I saw this:

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Yesterday was May Day, or Erster Mai. It’s a state holiday, at least in Bavaria, and is the equivalent to Labor Day. In Germany there is also vandalism and craziness on May Day, as is in other parts of the world, but here in Munich it isn’t too wild. I’m not entirely sure what other festivities are traditionally attached to May Day in Bavaria, but here’s what I do know:

1. For the Catholic Church, May is the month most closely associated with the Virgin Mary, and on the international church calendar, May 1 is the day dedicated to Joseph. (“Joseph the Worker” became more popular in the 19th and 20th century as the patron of workers, especially laborers or blue collar workers, and this feast was used deliberately to offset the impact of anarchist- or communist-tinged activities on International Worker’s Day.) I went to church in the morning, where I learned that, in Bavaria, St Joseph’s feast is displaced by the feast of the “Patroness of Bavaria.” Mary has been the Patroness of Bavaria since 1616. Mary being the patron of somewhere is basically another way of saying, “we are a very very Catholic place.”

2. On May 1st they raise the Maibaum in a ceremony called the Maibaumaufstellen. I guess Maibaum would be translated as “May pole,” but strictly it means “May tree,” and it is not something you dance around with ribbons.

Nope. (more…)

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Actually, though, before going on to post about Oxford, I want to backtrack to post about these churches from my first day.

To forestall possible confusion:

Westminster Abbey (aka the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster) is the very old monastery church, in the Gothic style, belonging to the Anglicans. You have seen it on TV.

Westminster Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, a turn of the century neo-Byzantine building, belonging to the Catholics. You probably haven’t heard of it unless you are an English Catholic.  (more…)

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