Friday, February 5, 2016


Carnival 2016

    The Carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche, during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is best known of all the others that take place in Belgium, at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century. This years carnival takes place between February 7th to the 9th.

Pre-Carnival Festivities

   The pre-Carnival festivities begin on Sunday, six weeks before shrove days.  There are the drum rehearsals, then the programs with drums and finally the programs with music. These happen one of the first two Sundays so that all the societies do not rehearse on the same day.   During the drum rehearsals, the societies listen to their own drums in their own meeting rooms and then they walk the streets to the rhythm of the drums and the bass drum.   During the rehersals with percussions, the societies gather together in a café out of the city center and then they form in  the center with accompaniment of the drums and the bass drums. The Gilles-to-be put their clogs on and wear their apertintaille (a belt with small bells). They dance and shake their to the rythm .   For the rehersals with music, a brass orchestra joins the drums and the participants wear their Shrove Sunday Costumes, which they have already worn at a previous Carnival.   Next to those festivities, some parties are organized by the younger participants or by the Shrove Monday Association, on Saturday night : the ball of Children, the ball of the Socialist Youth, the ball of the Liberal Youth and the ball of the Catholic Youth. Those balls are entertained by orchestras and people often wear costumes.    The Monday before the Shrove Sunday, there is the night of the  "Trouilles de Nouilles",  during which some costumed and masked groups picks out a person without any costume – and preferably someone famous, in a café or in the streets of the city center, in order to make jokes to him or her.

    Events related to the carnival begin up to 7 weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing and marching. Large numbers of Binche's inhabitants spend the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.


    The centerpiece of the carnival, are clown like performers, known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on "Shrove" Tuesday, the Giles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, ranging in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honor of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival's final day, Gilles appear in the center of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evils spirits by slapping sticks together. Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with Ostrich plums, which can cost upward of $300 dollars to rent, and march through town carrying baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd that gather to view the procession. The vigor and longevity of the orange throwing event has in the past, caused damage to property...some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.



   In Binche around thousand of Gilles can be seen on Shrove Tuesday. The Gille’s costume can only be worn for this special day.  It is also forbidden to get out of the city with it, from this comes the saying “a Gille never leaves”.    The costume is only for the man from Binche family or for the citizen leaving in Binche for at least 5 years. Strong rules are setting up to control the participation of the Carnival. A Folkloric defense association was created to promote and protect the tradition of Binche.   The Gille costume is a tunic and trousers made of jute decorated with 150 patterns (stars, lions and crowns) in fine black felt fabric. When the Gille dresses up, the tunic is filled up with straw at the front and on the back there is a small bell. The belt he wears is woolen red and yellow. There is another belt with a cloth called “apertintaille” and adorned with copper bells. He also wears a collar with pleated lace rubbans  or golden fringes, which can be attached around the neck.   On his head, he wears a "barrette", a white cotton hat and a band of tissue that goes around the neck (pleated squares worn around the neck and laced on the head to keep the hat on) cover all of the costume wearers hair. During Shrove Tuesday’s afternoon procession, the Gille wears his ostrich feather hat. The Gille does not own the costume nor the hat. He rents them at the “louageur”, one who  specializes in costumes and hat making and letting. On their feet, Gill will wear wooden clogs.    Shrove Tuesday mornings, the Gille wears its famous mask to enter the city hall. Made by the Pourbaix workshop, it is made of wax, decorated with green glasses, a moustache and a tiny goatee and side whiskers. In 1985, Binche registered with the European Patent office to have the exclusive rights: The mask can only be worn in Binche and sell to Gille from their society.   On Tuesday morning and during the practices with drums, the Gille holds a ramon in his hands. Once a broom, the ramon is composed of sticks of dry sallow put together with sinew rattan. The Gille moves to the rhythm with the ramon and the baskets (held on Shrove’s Tuesday afternoon).
The Peasant


   The society of the Peasants, comes from the Collège Notre-Dame de Bon Secours of Binche.   The Peasant wears a soberer costume than the Gille : a blue smock decorated with white sleeves, white pants, slim shoes decorated with wrinkled ribbons, white gloves and a different ramon than the Gille. The Peasant generally wears a hat decorated with 2 white ostrich feathers and long white ribbons. He also wears a “barrette” as well as a large square white piece of cloth under the chin. Finally the Peasants wear a mask that looks like the mask of the Gille but without the moustache and the beard.

The Arlequin


The society of the Arlequins (Harlequin),  comes from the Royal Athenee of Binche. They can be either girls or boys.

The Arlequins are inspired by the Comedia Dell’Arte. They wear a shirt and pants made of cloth printed with yellow, red and green triangles, and a black belt. Their felt hats are green, with a black and grey fur tail at the end of them. They wear the half-mask of Arlecchino with a fur border. They hold a bat in their hand which is decorated with colorful ribbons.

The Pierrot


   The society of the Pierrots, comes from the Petit Collège of Binche. They can be either girls or boys.   The Pierrots are inspired by the Comedia Dell’Arte. They wear a conical hat, decorated with lace and a white ribbon on the top. They wear a shirt and pants of  the same color : pink, blue or yellow. Their masks depict a black wolf and they hold a stick in their hands decorated with colorful ribbons.

The Gille's Wife


   Raised in the Carnivals overwhelming atmosphere, the inhabitants of Binche are devoted participants,  from costumed characters to musicians or to the Gilles wives. Their commitment is felt as natural and spontaneous at whatever their parts are in the festivities.   Most of the time, the Gille’s wife is kept in the shadows of the Binche "hero". The Gille wives are an essential part; from private to public life. In the earliest beginnings  of the festivities, the Gille wife is a crutial part,  taking care of everything leading up to the carnivals festivities and everything leading up to the Carnival itself. Not a spectator or an actress, it is during the ceremony that the Gille’s wife does both the obvious and ungrateful parts. However, for the Gille’s wife the show does not stop after the carnival, as it stops for the spectators or the Gille. She still has to take care of the chores back home like preparing meals, looking after the costumes or redoing the childrens make-up and taking care of anything else that needs to done around the house.   Finally, it is her leading part to educate the children. It is all of this that makes the Gille’s wife a central and essential role in the society of Binche.   Their duties  are seen as a crucial part,  since they are the ones to raise the children in the tradition of Binche. They are the ones to teach them the dances, what is permitted and what is not during the Carnival, the dressing-up ceremonial of Gille and most of all - the love for Binche traditions and its carnival rituals. Their goal is to get an unconditional and natural participation from the children.

The Societies


   Every Society has to take care of their members, the Gilles, the Peasants, the Pierrots and the Arlequins (Harlequins). They  must hire  drum groups, musicians, and organize all the logistics linked to the getting everyone to and in the event. Every Society is headed up by a committee that has  a president, vice-president, secretary and a treasurer.   Each Society has  3 or 4 commissioners who are linked to each Society. Those commissioners are representatives for the Association for the Defense of Folklore, they wear a domino (black satin dress), and they must keep everything together within the Society and make sure that everybody respects the timetable for the scheduled events and meetings.    Participation in the Carnival is expensive for the Gille and their families (fees to the Society, renting the Shrove Monday costume, making the Shrove Sunday costume, and all the costs of the meals and the parties).



   Every society has its own drums. A drum group consists  6 or 7 people, plus a bass drum player and a bass drum carrier. All the drums play the same melodies in the rhythm of the “ra” and the “fla” but every group has its  own way of playing. In Binche, the Gille never walk without a tambour (musician/drum group) which gives it the rhythm to his dance.   During the different parts of music and dancing, during the afternoon processions, the drums are accompanied by a brass orchestra.   There is 26 Gilles melodies in Binche : Air classique des Gilles - Lion de Belgique - Le postillon de Longjumeau – Le Sans souci - Le petit jeune homme de Binche - L’ambulant - Vivent les Bleus - Paysan s’en va - Eloi à Charleroi – Cavalcade - Le juif errant - La classe – Sérénade - Pas de charge - Mère tant pis - Vos arez in aubade – Arlequin - Les d’gins de l’Estène - El doudou - Quand m’grand-mère - Les chasseurs - Trompette des cent gardes - Les marins - Les brigands - Polka marche and Aubade matinale, and are only played Shrove Tuesday morning until the daybreak.  The viola is another typical instrument of the folklore of Binche, and it accompanies  children a on Shrove Tuesday but also small groups on Shrove Sunday morning. The viola is a transportable barrel organ, which works by a  keyboard and bellows, which in turn works with a cylinder that  is moved by a handle, called “manique”. The viola player is called a   "Le manniqueu".

They are 13 Carnival Societies  in Binche :

    Royal Society  les Récalcitrants
    Royal Society  Les Petits Gilles
    Royal Society  Les Indépendants
    Royal Society  Les Paysans
    Royal Society  Les Pierrots
    Royal Society  Les Réguénaires
    Royal Society  Les Maxim’s
    Royal Society  Les Supporters
    Royal Society  Les Incas
    Society Les Arlequins
    Society Les Incorruptibles
    Society Les Jeunes Indépendants
    Society Les Arpeyants


    On Shrove Tuesday townspeople don their fancy costumes that were imagined and made months before and created by each participant. In the morning at approximately 8 a.m. the drums go from house to house to gather up the participants. At about 10 a.m., the small groups collected by the drums meet in the heart of Binche. It is the moment the townspeople prefer, when they discover the marvelous, original costumes. At about 3:30 p.m., people gather at the station area. The societies go back to the center of Binche, dancing to the music of the drums and the brass bands, forming a living multicolored ribbon.

    On Shrove Monday, the feast is a traditional, more private gathering of locals. To the tune of the viols and the hurdy-gurdies, they all go from pub to pub, and from pub to friends and neighbors houses, as they get ready to invite the voil, who are dancing in the streets.
    At about 3 p.m. the children gather, just like the adults had done the day before. The younger ones dance to the music of the drums and brass bands. They then convene in the Town Square, they all dance to the "rondeau de l'amite." Then after hours of dancing and singing until about 8 p.m., they leave to enjoy fireworks at the stationing area.


    The Sapporo Snow Festival is a famous festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan, over 7 days in February. Currently, Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main sites of the festival. The 67th festival is from February 5th to the 11th at the Odori and Suskino sites and February 5th to the 18th at the Tsudome site.
The festival is one of Japan's largest and most distinctive winter events. In 2007, about 2 million people visited Sapporo to see the hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures at the Odori Park and Suskino sites, in central Sapporo, and the Satoland site. The festival is thought to be an opportunity for promoting international relations. The International Snow Sculpture Contest has been held at the Odori Park sit since 1974, and teams from various regions of the world participate.

    The subject of the statues varies and often features as event, famous building or person from the previous yer. For example, in 2004, there were statues of Hideki Matsui, the famous baseball player who at that time played for the New York Yankees. A number of stages made out of snow are also constructed and made out of snow are also constructed and some events including musical performance are held. At the Satoland site, visitors can enjoy long snow and ice slides as well as a huge maze made of snow. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of regional foods from all over Hokkaido at the Odori Park and Satoland sites, such as fresh seafood, potatoes and corn, and fresh dairy products.

    Every year the number of statues displayed is around 400. In 2007, there were 307 statues created in the Odori Park site, 32 in the Satoland site and 100 i the Susino site. The best place to view the creations is from the TV tower at Odori Park. Most of the statues are illuminated in the evening. The Sapporo Snow Festival Museum is located in the Hitsujigaoka observation hill in Toyhira-ku, and displays historical materials and media of the festival.


    The Snow Festival began in 1950, when 6 local high school students built 6 snow statues in Odori Par. In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces form the nearby Makomani base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous for. Several snow festivals existed in Sapporo prior to the Sapporo Snow Festival, however, all of these were suspended during World War II.
    During the Energy crisis of 1974, snow statues were built using drums. This was due to the shortage of gasoline which caused many of the trucks that were used to carry snow to the site, were unavailable, due to the shortage and rationiong of fuel. In that same year, the International Snow Statue Competition started and since that year many snow statues built by teams from other countries have been featured; especially from some of the sister cities of Sapporo, such as Munich Germany.


   In years when the accumulated snowfall is low, the Self-Defense Force, for whom participation is considered a training exercise, brings in snow from outside Sapporo. The Makomanai base, one of three main sites from 1965, hosted the largest sculptures, with a emphasis on providing play space fro children. Use of the Makomanai site was suspended in 2005 and moved to the Sapporo Satoland site located in Higashi-ku in 2006. In 2009, the Satoland site was moved to the Tsudome (Sapporo Community Dome) site. The Tsudome, located close to the Sapporo Satoland, is a dome for multiple sport events.
    Nakajima Park was established as one of the festival sites in 1990 however, it was removed as a site in 1992. The thrid site, known as the Suskino Ice Festival, is situated in the night life district of Susukino and includes predominantly ice carvings. The site was approved as one of the festival sites in 1983. Every year, the IcSuskino Queen of Ice, a beauty contest, is held at this site.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


   Annually celebrated in United States and Canada on February 2nd, Groundhog Day is a well known holiday that revolves around the popular weather lore of the coming out of a groundhog from its burrow on this date to look for its shadow. The winter is nearing an end if the groundhog sees its shadow and if it retreats into its hole in its absence the cold season is likely to continue for 6 more weeks.

The Origins & Beliefs

   Groundhog Day, celebrated across the United States and Canada,  is purely a North American tradition. It is based on a belief that on this day (February 2nd) the groundhog, or woodchuck, comes out of hole after winter hibernation to look for its shadow. If the shadow is seen, it's a sunny day. And the groundhog foretells 'six more weeks of bad weather' and thus a lingering winter. But spring is coming if no shadow is seen because of clouds. The groundhog then behaves accordingly. It goes back into the hole if the weather turns bad, but stays above ground if spring is near.
   Thus weather prediction or prognostication came as an integral feature of Groundhog Day tradition. This prediction owes its origin to the European tradition of Candlemas. There is an old European supposition that a sunny Candlemas day would lead the winter to last for 'another six weeks'. Also celebrated on February 2, the was used to commemorate the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Candles for sacred uses were blessed on this day. Gradually the traditions at this Candlemas came to associate with them different folklores. The German added the belief of an animal, initially a hedgehog, being frightened by his shadow on Candlemas would foretell that winter would last another six weeks. This belief was brought in America during the 18th Century by the German settlers. These settlers adopted the groundhog as their weather predictor.

   Groundhog Day came into being in North America during the late 1800s. Thanks to the combined effort of Clymer H. Freas, a newspaper editor, and W. Smith, an American Congressman and newspaperpublisher. They organized and popularized a yearly festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the State was populated predominantly by German settlers. The festival featured a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil which used to foretell how long the winter would last. This very popular event is still being held and is called Groundhog Day.
    There has been a concerted effort in popularizing and commercializing the Groundhog Day across the United States. Chuck Wood is The Committee for the commercialization of Groundhog Day's official mascot. The movie "Groundhog Day," has played a key role in popularizing the schedule of Events in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on and around February 2. Apart from Pennsylvania, fascinating Groundhog Day events are also held in other states, especially, Nebraska, Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, Arkansas, and California.
   Groundhog Day is also very popular in Canada and Wiarton Willy is the Groundhog that is used to predict the length of winter over there.

Image result for groundhog day

Trailing The Tradition

   Historically the month of February bears a special significance to the people in the North. This is evident through various traditions and rites prevalent in this part of the world for thousands of years.
    Predicting the onset of the Spring had been a common practice even in the ancient times as much of the harvest yield was hinged on the change on weather.
  The ancient civilizations would greet this time of the year by performing rites to the rising power of the springtime sun. And these rites were agricultural in nature and performed mostly by the farmers.
    The earlier Romans in the pre-Christian era celebrated February 1 as the Feast of Lights. Lighted torches were carried in procession in a springtime rebirth ritual. The tradition witnessed a carryover in the Christian era and was glorified by linking it with Christ. For, what we celebrate as the Groundhog Day these days has since long been celebrated as the Candlemas across Europe.
     A clear, sunny day on a Candlemas was one of the worst things that could happen. Fair conditions would bring at least forty more days of snowy, rigorous winter. On the other hand, an overcast and generally miserable Candlemas promised a fat and early summer.

   An old tradition was that Christmas decorations were taken down by Candlemas.   Though it is still kept in some places, but for the most part it has been set forward to January 6, the day of Epiphany. The 17th Century English poet Robert Herrick wrote concerning this removal:

Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies, and mistletoe;
Down with the Holly, Ivie, all
Wherewith ye drest the Christmas Hall.

    To leave them up longer was to invite bad luck. The plants were burned and their ashes along with the ashes of the Yule log, were cast upon the fields, giving the earth new powers to promote growth in the spring.

Mythological link:
   According to Greek mythology, Proserpine had been abducted into the underworld by Pluto. The goddess Ceres, her mother, and the candle bearing celebrants searched for her in the winter darkness, bringing the reviving light was justifiably taken over by the Christian Church. The sacred light symbolized the Christ Child who was "a light for revelation to the Gentiles," and Mary was the Mother of God - the Theotokas- the lightbearer". The Mother and Son thus shared equally in the festival of Candlemas.

Image result for groundhog day

About The Groundhog

   A groundhog is a marmot of North American variety with a reddish brown fur and a rough bushy tail. Also called woodchuck, though it is no way related with chucking of wood.
   Being a rodent type groundhog is basically a burrowing mammal and lives in a hole in the ground (this is why the name!). It goes into a deep long slumber during the winter and comes out of the hole when the spring is on the verge. For a groundhog the moths before and after winter are very important. This is when the marmot remains extremely busy, searching for food, looking for a nice mate, helping the family grow, making good storage, furnishing new home (or hole) and getting thoroughly prepared for the next winter. The more active the groundhog remains during the summer the happier he spends the winter.
    Now the legend: According to the traditional belief it comes out of the hole after checking out its own shadow. This is where it applies its wit, or that is what the legend says:
    If a shadow of its own is seen under the sun, it slips back into the hole. For, it knows the winter is yet to be over by another six weeks.

A little nighttime festivities on Ground Hog Day

    If no shadow, it comes out finally. For, it predicts, the spring is close by
    Though there is no statistical evidence favoring this belief, it is fact that the woodchuck is a very nervous creature. It gets terribly scared with the slightest provocation and sprints back in to its hole.
    It is also a very shy animal and stays away from all possible human presence. There is, however, no evidence that a woodchuck has the power of predicting the change of season by studying the shadow.
    Well, many of us just laugh away the capability of groundhog. They say, if a groundhog really goes back to its hole on seeing its own shadow that is due to its nervous and scary nature. After such long time of underground sleep detached from the outer world, it simply gets startled by its own shadow and runs back to its cozy, secured home to be pent up for a few more weeks.

    Yes, it is only a possible explanation. But who knows if this met-marmot has got some magical power to foretell the arrival of spring!

Seasons and Shadows

   As the Earth orbits the sun it follows two motions. One is the spinning motion around the Earth's own axis. This motion causes the days and nights. The other motion along the elliptical orbit takes a year to complete one full rotation around the sun. Seasons are caused by the Earth's axis being inclined at about 23-1/2o with the orbital plane. As the Earth orbits the sun its axis always points to the same direction.
     In December the North Pole is leaning away from the sun and the Northern hemisphere receives less sunlight. The days are short and the sun is low in the sky so the sunlight is spread thinly over the Earth's surface. The sun is lowest in the sky on December 22, the winter solstice. The Northern Hemisphere receives so less sunlight that the Earth continues to get colder for another month. Thus January is colder than December. And the coldest time comes about the end of January. Things just get reverse as we move down to the southern hemisphere across the Equator.
    Thus seasons are defined by this gradual shifting movement between the summer solstice and winter solstice. As we move on from winter to summer, or, the other way round, we come across four seasons, distinct especially in the temperate zones. Moving from the winter, in spring it gets warmer, in summer, hot. In autumn it gets cooler, in winter cold. Spring comes earlier down in southern areas than farther in the north.  This is just the reverse in the southern hemisphere.


    As light emitting from a source gets hit by an opaque object a shadow is created away from the source and on the other side of the object.
    Shadows under the sun are created when the sunrays get hit by any opaque object - living or not. As the sun moves on from east to west shadows are created. Thus shadows are the longest when the sun is in the east or, west horizon. At around noon when the sun is perched just overhead, the shadows get reduced to a minimal length.
The movement of shadow in sync with the sun could be applied in making a sundial, the earliest form of clock known to give a near perfect reading.
     This shadow movement also changes with the change of season. In winter as the North Pole leans away from the sun light falls a bit slantingly on the objects in the North.
Thus shadows are always a little longer throughout the winter days as against those during the summer. The variation in this shadow movement also helps us to predict the shifting of the seasons.
     Now is it really possible to predict if spring is near or far?
    Well, on February the sunlight is already bound for summer as the North Pole comes nearer the sun. The length of shadow is thus somewhat shorter, but not remarkably enough. So it is difficult to distinguish between a late January and a late February shadow unless you are a keen regular observer



    The Festival du Voyageur ( Festival of the Traveller), is an annual 10 day winter festival which takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada during February.  "Voyageur" refers to those who worked for a fur trading company and usually travelled by canoe. 
   This event is held in Winnipeg's French Quarter, Saint-Boniface, and is Western Canada's largest winter festival.  The event celebrates Canada's fur trading past and her unique French heritage and culture through entertainment, arts and crafts, music, exhibits and displays.


   The idea for the festival was first proposed in 1967, in celebration of Canada's centennial.  However, due to a lack of sufficient funding from the city council, the proposal was not acted upon.  In the summer of 1969, the mayor, Ed Turner, and the city council of Saint-Boniface granted their support under the condition that the Festival became an incorporated organization.  Judge Robert Trudel became the first president of Festival du/ of the Voyageur.  Festival du/of the Voyageur Inc. was Incorporated under the Companies Act of Manitoba on December 18th, 1969.  It received a city grant of $35,000 but had to give back all profits up to the $35,000.

  At a press conference held January 13th, 1970, Mayor Turner announced that the city of Saint-Boniface would present a festival honoring the Voyageur of the fur trading era, in celebration of Manitoba's centennial.  The first Festival du/of the Voyageur took place February 26th to March 1st 1970, at Provencher Park, with an estimated attendance of 50,000 people.  The large number

of attendees required an unforeseen level of expenditure by festival organizers; by the festival's conclusion, the organization had a debt in excess of $40,000.  To remedy their financial situation, the organizers held horse races as a fundraiser in conjunction with the 1971 festival.  The 1971 festival was a success, drawing nearly 200,000 guests.  However, instead of resolving the financial  situation, the fundraiser pushed the organization further into debt.

  Grants from the city of  Winnipeg and the Secretary of State allowed the Festival to make arrangements with their creditors.  The name was changed to "Festival du Voyageur".  For the 1972 festival, Arthur D'schambault was elected president.  He hired a number of financial

and management directors (most of whom were anglophone).  The festival ran from February 21st to 27th, and the profits amounted to $108.46.
   Over the years, more additions were made to the festival.  The symbol of a red toque (stocking cap) and a pair of boots was adopted in 1973, after a winning snow sculpture from the year before.  Two "school" voyageurs were appointed in 1977, to visit schools and teach children about the voyageurs and the Festival.

    In 1978, the organization had accumulated enough surplus funds to make Whittier Park the permanent site of the festival.  Provencher Park had become too small for the growing number of attendees.  Log cabins were constructed in Whittier Park that could be left there year-round.  These cabins formed the foundations of the historic reconstruction that became as Fort Gibraltar.

Monday, February 1, 2016


    Can you say Starkbierzeit? It's German for "strong beer festival", an event held every March in Munich. For two weeks, breweries bring out their most potent beverages, and beer halls throw noisy parties with a host of Bavarian entertainment and food. It's Oktoberfest without the tourists.
    The festival's roots go back to the Paulaner monks who, according to legend, began making an extra strength beer to sustain themselves during their Lenten fast. The beer, first brewed in the 17th century, gained a "word of mouth" following. The townspeople called it Salvator.

    Strong beer's popularity took off after Napoleon rode into town and sold the monasteries to local businessmen. Paulaner ended up in the hands of a entrepreneur named Franz Xavier Zacheri, who turned the monastery into a beer hall and mass produced the monks' beer. In an inspired bit of marketing, he promoted Salvator as a cure for the wintertime blues. Munchner's answered the call, descending on Zacheri's beer hall in droves.
    Salvator is classified as a doppelbock, which means an "extra strength" version of the Bock style. "Bock", in Bavaria, is a generic term meaning strong beer--pale as well as dark. Just how strong are doppelbocks? They start at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anbd because their strength is masked by a strong malty flavor, they can sneak up on the most experienced of beer drinkers.

    The site of Zackeri's beer hall is still the gathering place for Starkbierzeit--especially on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. Today, it's called the Paulaner Keller. This sprawling complex can hold 5,000 revelers, and there's room for thousands more outside. It has everything you'd expect in a traditional beer hall: sturdy beermaids; brass bands blaring out drinking songs; and plenty of malty, amber colored Salvator Doppelbock.
It didn't take long for Munich's other breweries to follow Paulaner's lead and come out with their own doppelbocks. But as a tribute to the original Salvator, they've all given their beers names ending in "-ator".
     Paulaner's biggest competitor is Lowenbrau, which brings out its sweetish--and lethal--Triumphator in March. You can find it all over town, but if you want to join the party, the place to go is the brewery's enormous Lowenbraukeller. Show up on the right evening, and the entertainment will include boulder-lifting competitions and other feats of strength.


    Doppelbock isn't the only style of beer served during Starbierzeit. For an interesting change of pace, head for Weisses Brauhaus, a popular destination for those who like to start their evening with a good meal. As the name suggests, it specializes in wheat beers, which Germans often call weiss, or white beers. This time of year, the brewery pours Starkweizenbier, a dark colored beer whose pronounced wheat flavor hides a big alcoholic punch.


    Munich's most intriguing strong beer venue is Forschungbrauerei, which means "research brewery", in English. By tradition, it's allowed to start serving its doppelbock, called St. Jakobus, a week before Starkbierzeit, it is a small, family run establishment whose entire production is consumed on the premises. It's also one of the few remaining places where beer is served in ceramic mugs which do a better job of keeping beer cold.

    Starkbierzeit isn't widely publicized,which is just fine with Munchners. It's their time of year to show pride in Bavarian culture and tradition. But don't let the local color scare you away, that's why millions of people visit every year! Bring a good guidebook, a hearty appetite, and a taste for strong Bavarian beer. That'll be enough to earn you a "Wilkommen" at any beer hall in town.


   This may be a time for chocolates and romantic steak dinners, bu this month is also filled with several national food holidays. Check out all of the great food holidays to be enjoyed during the month of February, plus great suggestions on how to celebrate them.

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  • National Baked Alaska Day, February 1st- Who doesn't love cake and ice cream? But, you can make it even better by adding a thick layer of meringue and popping the whole thing in the oven. Be creative and choose gourmet flavors of ice cream and cake.

  • Heavenly Hash Day, February 2nd-Heavenly hash is a wonderful combination of chocolate ice cream and almonds. Be creative and make some heavenly hash ice cream sandwiches using double chocolate cookies.

  • National Carrot Cake Day, February 3rd-Take a break from cooking and baking and just grab some carrot cake cupcakes made at a local bakery.

  • National Stuffed Mushroom Day, February 4th-A great way to celebrate this national food holiday is to make mushrooms stuffed with your favorite ingredients, such as cheese and bacon.

  • National Chocolate Fondue Day, February 5th-This great food holiday is to celebrate with your significant other. Just make a simple chocolate fondue and serve it with some fruits for dipping.

  • Food Checkout Day, February 6th-This food holiday is easy to celebrate, just go pick up something from the grocery store.

  • National Fettuccini Alfredo Day, February 7th-A delicious pasta dish is just perfect for a cold winter's evening. To celebrate this food holiday prepare a simple Alfredo sauce and combine it with chicken or shrimp and fettuccini noodles.

  • Molasses Bar Day, February 8th-Molasses is such a tasty ingredient to work with. You can either make these bars or you can make gingerbread or even serve it on fresh made biscuits.

  • National Bagels and Lox Day, February 9th-This is a great food holiday for a winter morning when you need a hearty breakfast.

  • Cream Cheese Brownie Day, February 10th-If you want to take this food holiday over the top, make a brownie cheesecake.

  • Peppermint Patty Day, February 11th-This is an easy food holiday to celebrate. Just grab some York Peppermint Patties and pass them around.

  • National Plum Pudding Day, February 12th-Plum pudding is actually a cake. But, it's the perfect carb filled delight to serve on a cold winter evening.

  • National Tortellini Day, February 13th-A good way to celebrate this holiday is to use Tortellini in creative ways. Add it to a soup, serve it with different sauces, or add different fillings.

  • National Creme Filled Chocolates Day, February 14th-This is a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day.

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  • National Gumdrop Day, February 15th-Go to your local candy store and buy some handmade gumdrops.

  • National Almond Day, February 16th-There are so many great ways to celebrate this national food holiday. You can add almonds to brownies, make chocolate covered almonds, or chop them up and add them on top of some ice cream.

  • National Indian Pudding Day, February 17th-You can either enjoy this food holiday by making your own Indian pudding or look for a restaurant that serves authentic Native American food.

  • Crab Stuffed Flounder Day, February 18th-This food holiday is actually healthy. Just be careful of the ingredients you use in your crab stuffing.

  • National Chocolate Mint Day, February 19th-This is another easy holiday to celebrate. Just buy some Andes Mints.

  • National Margarita Day, February 20th-This another national food holiday that will warm your soul.

  • National Sticky Bun Day, February 21st- Can you think of a better way to start off a cold winter morning with?

  • National Cherry Pie Day, February 22nd-Celebrate this national food holiday by serving up some cherry pie topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.

  • National Banana Bread Day, February 23rd-Celebrate this national food holiday by taking a homemade banana bread to work and sharing it with some co-workers.

  • National Tortilla Chip Day, February 24th-Spice things up on this food holiday by serving a large plate of nachos.

  • National Clam Chowder Day, February 25th- This is a great holiday to celebrate on a cold winter afternoon.

  • National Pistachio Day, February 28th-Eat them roasted or serve them in a pistachio pudding.

  • National Strawberry Day, February 27th-This is the month of romance. Celebrate this food holiday by dipping some in melted chocolate.

  • National Chocolate Souffle Day, February 28th-Chocolate souffle is unbelievably sinful. What better way to take your mind off those cold winter days with?

  • Surf and Turf Day, February29th-Celebrate this food holiday with a large New York steak and some lobster.