Erntedankfest in a German Village

Schweindorf 1990

The Fulbright program does an incredible job connecting peoples around the world. We had learned that I was to teach English to German pupils from grades 6-10 in a Comprehensive School in Neresheim, Germany.  The school served 30 surrounding towns and villages nearby. In July our two young children, ages 3 and 6, and I flew to Germany for orientation sessions in Bonn before traveling to our assigned towns and schools for the year.  My husband remained at home and was able to visit a few times during the year.  Our village of about 300 people was called Schweindorf where we had an apartment above a restaurant owned by the Spielberger family who became our second family for the year and remain that to this very day. They had a huge farm, a barn with horses and lots of land to roam and play.

Previously I had studied in Heidelberg, Germany, for three years and had visited a few times. Bringing young children along and living there posed new challenges.  There was one church in the village which was historically Protestant.  Around the end of October, we learned about a festival to be held with services in that church.  It was called Erntedankfest which was a harvest festival giving thanks for the good harvest in the fields.  Our kindergarten-age daughter participated by bringing up some of the vegetables which were places on the altar.  Like many other customs and holidays, this one remains forever in our hearts and minds.

When my husband brought home a box filled with local vegetables harvested in nearby fields of Upstate New York, nostalgia hit, and I was reminded of that festival in our tiny German village where people gathered together to give thanks for a good harvest and to instill respect for customs and traditions.

Gasthof Hirsch Schweindorf0001

Our lives were forever changed by our experiences of living abroad and attending German schools. Our son attended a combined class of grades 1-2 in nearby Kösingen, the home of the hot dog king, Oscar Mayer.  Children in German schools take numerous field trips during the year.  These are written into the school calendar, and no work has to be made up.  What they do on the field trip is considered school for the day.  Our son still has his collection of leaves which were indentified and attached in his journals.  We still have his cursive handwritten pages and poems all in German.  We still tell one another “ich liebe Dich” or I love you at the end of conversations.   For years, my children listened to me sing in German at the beginning of our day, Guten Morgen, liebe Sonne, as well as Brahm’s Lullaby at the end, Guten Abend, Gute Nacht.

Tom 1st gr.Koesingen, Ger. Schultuete0001

Whenever we shopped in the local bakeries, butcher shops or toy stores, the children were always given free cookies and pieces of bologna or sometimes candy. They became spoiled, and we missed that when we returned home to Upstate New York the following July.  Having quickly learned the German language in Germany, our two experienced reverse culture shock at home.  Our daughter’s first language for all practical purposes was German, and now she had to speak English.  The eye exam with our pediatrician at her well check-up posed a funny problem.  The nurse showed her pictures to identify which our daughter correctly did – but in German!  I was called to the exam room and informed of a “problem” but I simply translated for the nurse and resolved the issue.  The ice cream cone picture identified with the German word Eis was understood as an ice cube by the nurse who then learned the German word!

We have been back in the U.S. for many moons now but still speak German whenever we can but especially our prayer before meals. Learning a foreign language is as important to us as brushing our teeth or learning to play a musical instrument.  We observed how tolerant and understanding of others our two became as they lived in Schweindorf, our little home away from home near the Bavarian border.  It was an exciting year for everyone.

IMG_4950Emily in Schweindorf0001


This entry was posted in Erntedankfest, Fulbright Exchange, Fulbright to Germany, German village life, harvest festival, Schweindorf, Spielberger family and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Erntedankfest in a German Village

  1. What a delightful post! I enjoyed every word and every photograph. You provided a very rich experience for yourself and your children, one that lives on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is so very kind of you to say so. I have posted on the education our two received and will again in the future. It kept me on my toes, balancing my teaching schedule against the two additional school schedules our two had. No two days were the same which many Americans don’t realize. It was a very rich and very rewarding experience. The Fulbright people let us know that our lives would be forever changed and the lives of the pupils we taught as well. Amazing times! Have a great weekend. ^__^

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful post and photos, Mary Ann! Thanks for sharing… xo

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Arno Bode,Cologne,Germany says:

    Liebe Mary Ann,
    wir sind begeistert von deinem Bericht über die Zeit die Du mit deinen Kindern hier in old Germany verbracht hast.Die Erlebnisse und Erkenntnisse ,die Du hier gewonnen hast bleiben Dir sicher ein Leben lang in guter Erinnerung.Auch wenn den Blick nach vorn in die Zukunft gerichtet ist,bleiben liebenswerte Erinnerungen etwas ,das nicht zu ersetzen ist.Ein wundervoller Bericht von deiner
    Zeit in Germany.
    Alles Liebe für Dich und deine Familie,wünscht Dir
    Dein Arno

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lieber Arno, danke für die freundlichen Worte zu unserer Zeit in Deutschland für meinen ersten Fulbright Exchange Lehrer in Neresheim. Wir hatten viele Freunde und hatten Erinnerungen für das Leben lang. Wir erinnern uns immer an dieser wundervollen Zeit in Schweindorf, Koesingen und Neresheim. Unsere Kinder wurden dabei fließend in Deutsch. Unsere zweite Familie lebt in Schweindorf und ist uns sehr wichtig und lieb. Liebe Grüße. Deine Mary Ann ox


  4. What a wonderful post! And I agree, learning new languages is so important! It not only opens our minds but also our hearts as we learn an appreciate new people, cultures and customs.

    Liked by 2 people

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