WHAT THE HONK? GERMAN WEEKEND CAR PROCESSIONS EXPLAINED!
Chances are if you’re living in Germany, you’ve lucked into a neighbor who has at least once grumbled at someone who was disturbing quiet hours. And that someone might have been you.
Don’t stress. I’m not judging – we’ve all been there.
Maybe you were drilling on a Sunday. Or mowing the lawn at 12.30. Perhaps you’re a noodle and were having a karaoke party till 4.31 am on a weeknight – in that case: bleep you!
All of the above can cause your neighbors to complain. However, feel free to smooth along the streets in a procession of cars, honking your head off – and no one will bat an eye.
Why do people bear the latter, but come unglued when you fire up the washing machine at 11.48 pm, you ask? Read on to find out.
WHAT IS IT FOR?
Unless these noisy convoys happen after a big soccer match, they’re part of a German wedding tradition, where the bridal car leads the way from the location of the ceremony to the venue, with all the guests tagging along in their vehicles while honking their heads off.
Oftentimes, the attendees’ cars will have ribbons tied to their mirrors or antennas. Note that not every car featuring a bow is currently part of a wedding procession – it might just be leftover from one since the piece of cloth can’t be removed until it falls off by itself. Otherwise, it’s bad luck for the couple.
IT’S TO FEND OFF GHOSTS, ISN’T IT?
As is the custom when there’s a tradition that involves loud noises, some people claim that, back in the days, this was done to shoo away evil spirits.
That explanation seems iffy, though, since cars have only been around for 135 years, and it took a minute before they were widely available for the general public. So, by the time the number of people owning cars was big enough to potentially form a serious wedding procession, Germans likely no longer believed in ghosts.
Today, people honk their horns to demonstrate joy and draw attention to the newlyweds, which, granted, doesn’t sound mystical enough to warrant all the clamor – so maybe the spirit explanation was an attempt to justify some rambunctiousness in an otherwise overly orderly country.
SO, WHAT’S MY TASK HERE?
Relax. You’re not expected to do anything when you encounter them – but you can be awed by the bride and groom who are beaming out of their decorated wedding car.
Honk, wave, smile, and be happy for them! Or honk, wave, smile, and secretly judge their taste in flower decorations. Maybe even honk, wave, smile, and holler at them: “Don’t do it! Bolt while you still can!” – all depending on how far along you are in your own marriage journey.
Unfortunately, neither option will get you a piece of their wedding cake, but you can always use it as an excuse to treat yourself to some Kuchen from the bakery on your way home.
BUT THERE’S NO WAY ALL THIS NOISE IS OFFICIALLY ALLOWED
Short answer: spot-on.
Honking your horn for any other reason than to warn someone of danger is indeed prohibited. But during weddings, the authorities will let it ride, as long as you don’t disrupt traffic and avoid beeping in quiet, residential neighborhoods.
Yup, you read that right: We don’t always follow the law. Because Germans are rebels!
Just not when it comes to jaywalking – let’s not take it too far.
How can I tell these processions apart? The wedding one has a nicely decorated car in the front, along with daintily dressed people, delightedly draped behind their windshields.
The soccer one features vehicles bedecked with flags and semi-nekkie sozzled souls, who are flapping out of various car windows. They may roar, or they may ralph – you never know.
Both types of processions are angelic in their own way. So just sit back and enjoy the ride.