COMMUNITY Gatherings



    In the north woods of New England there is a small village whose residents always gathered together four times a year: the 4th of July, town meeting day, Christmas, and New Year’s. Then in 2006 a German couple moved into the house on the hill. For weeks and weeks there was the sound of workers sawing, hammering, and scurrying around. At last a colorful blue checkered flag from the Black Forest appeared above the window in the turret and soon a hand written invitation was sent out to the entire village to come celebrate.

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   Ursula and Fritz start early to prepare. When the clock strikes five, the guests arrive. From start to strudel finish, the food is homemade and very good!

“IT’S QUITE SPECIAL, really—every year the neighbors keep coming. Sharing, I think, is the heart of any celebration. It’s why holidays are so important. In our case, we were new in the village and wanted to find a way to get to know the neighbors, so we decided to invite everyone to a small October fest celebration.

     “The first October fest was actually a royal wedding celebration. It was back in the early 1800s. The royal couple invited all of Munich to the fair grounds in front of the city gates. There was Bavarian music, of course, and singing and dancing. The celebration ended with horse races. After that first year the races were held every fall. That is how it all began. Since then it has changed greatly. It is simply a commercial tourist attraction now. The real spirit of October fest is what happens in the smaller community celebrations like ours. I actually think there are more October fest celebrations in America than in Germany! At first our neighbors were very curious, I think. But then they started asking us, ‘Will you be having October fest again next year?’  This year was our eighth year. We love doing it. We’ll keep doing it as long as we can.

There is another Black Forest tradition I could tell you about too, if you like. I loved it very much as a child and waited for it each year.  On the night of April 30th young men went secretly to the house of their girlfriends with what is called a ‘May tree’. The tree was decorated with paper flowers. The young men would climb to the highest point on the roof and put the tree there. In the morning all the young girls who had boyfriends would see if they had gotten a tree. It meant the young man was quite serious. You could say it was his first proposal of marriage. I used to wait for May first to go through the village to see all the trees. Fritz never gave me one, but I still married him!

     “We love sharing our traditions. I think that is because our neighbors are so appreciative. Our small community has a wonderful spirit.  It’s good to take care of that spirit. We just try to do our part.”

— Authors Ursula and Fritz are fluent in English and neighborliness*. Their native language is German.


*neighborliness means being a good neighbor.

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: