The Lantern Song (12 Oct 17)

 
 
The Lantern Song
 
(taken from a chapter in “Patches and Pins…” by Mike Walton  (c) 1988 Settummanque)
 
I loved living in Germany for three reasons.  The Sprudle. It was a drink similar to our 7-Up or Sprite, but made with natural water instead of carbonated water.  It was bottled in beer bottles, with the flip-up and over caps instead of more modern bottles found in the United States or at the Base Exchange or commissary.  It was also a lot cheaper.  I could get my Sprudle “fix” for the American equivalent of 3 cents.  A bottle of Sprite would run me ten times as much back then.
 
And the Sprudle “shop” was right behind our four-storied apartment building, which overlooked the Stuttgart skyline at night and fields of soybeans and corn during the day.
 
There was the smell of Germany.  A strong, pungent smell which came from a combination of sources.  The smell of the soybeans and corn in the ground.  The smell of the manure from the “honey wagons” carrying human and animal wastes to a farm field for coverage.  The smell of the people walking around you — Germans mainly but we Americans had it too — body odor.  The clean air from a lack of air pollution in otherwise a rural part of central Germany.  Together, the combination of all of those sources made for a special smell…I called it the “smell of dutchland” (I was too young to pronounce the name of the country I was living in correctly…it always came out “Dutchland” instead of “Deutchland”).
 
And the customs and traditions.  Saying “Gross Gutt!” to everyone you met on the streets.  Being out of school at 2:30pm and in the streets by 3:15.  The straw or coals in the shoes on December 6th along with money or candy…chocolates. Advent candles, one per week up until Christmas.  Many of those traditions, I have kept in my heart and I swore I would share with my family when it came time for me to have a wife and children.  Never mind that those were mostly Catholic, mostly religious and mostly
native to Germany and Germans. 
 
Every fall around November 11th – Saint Martin (the patron saint of children) Day, all of the children in Ludwigsburg would gather at the castle of King Ludwig some number or another and parade around the grounds with lit paper lanterns.  The lanterns would be lit through a candle in the center, and the idea was to parade around the grounds, singing the “Lantern Song” until your lantern caught fire or the candle goes out.
 
We would practice the song over and over and over again, in German and in English during our one hour of German each day in school.  And then, on that magic evening, the Friday closest to November 11th, we would board buses or our parents would take us downtown to the Ludwigsburg Castle.  There, we would get off the bus or somehow find our class, get a paper lantern and our parents or the teacher would light it.  Then, we waited to get into line to join the parade around the castle grounds.
 
“I’m walking here with my lantern, and my lantern is walking with me,” we would start out in German.  “The lanterns light up the dark night and the stars above light up our path.”
 
“My light is out, I’m going home.  Barbrooma, Barbrooma, Barbooom.”  That was the best part of the song.  We would emphasize that part of the song as we sang the refrain twice.
 
Finally, it was true: our lights were out, and as custom dictated, we had to leave the group and go home.  It was a good evening…an hour or so wasted in the interest of German-American cooperation.  I loved it and could not wait until next year. 
 
(Many years later, my daughter Amanda was born in Germany and became a dual citizen of the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany.)
 
When my daughter was old enough to walk, we attempted to drive from Faundau to Ludwigsburg to have her participate in the Lantern Festival Parade.  Unfortunately, that was also the weekend in which an American officer was killed and all Americans were told not to give ourselves a “high profile” in public.  My daughter was cheated out of the Lantern Festival by Army policy. She would have looked absolutely cute walking around the Castle grounds, being either carried by her mother or myself, or holding our hands with her tiny hands as she carried the big stick with the paper lantern and trying to sing with the rest of the kids — and their parents and teachers:
 
“Mein Licht ist aus, Ich gehe nach haus….barooma, barooma, baroom.”
 
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About Settummanque

Take your standard Oliver North. Add strong parts of Bill Cosby and Sir Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting). Throw in Johny Bravo without the “hurhhs!” and his pecks. Add a strong dose of parenting, the sexuality of a latin lover, and Mona Lisa’s smile. And a 40 year old’s body frame. That’s me basically *grinning*

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