Tonight as we drove back home form Freiburg (where we are planting a church in October) in just about every village on the way, we saw the Scheiben Fires. It begins with a parade of people with torches lighting the way up the mountainside. As the night goes on, the fire torches that made their way up the mountain were being hurled through the air into the valley.
Every year at the end of February, each village has the same tradition. It is supposed to be on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday. Apparently, the fire is to signify that spring is victorious over winter. (I can totally understand this because winters here are dark, wet and depressing)
Sometimes, a straw witch is burned in the bonfire (as a result of Christian influence)…and the flying logs of fire are to chase off and banish the winter “spirits” and welcome spring. As they hurl the logs or discs of wood, they chant “Schibi, schibo, die Schiebe die soll goh.” loosely translated… “Schibi, schibo, we will push to make it go.” This is accompanied by a night of partying & hard drinking. (This is particularly hard for me to imagine because of the hangovers that they probably had after the last few weeks of partying during Carnival and the “Witch Ball”.)
This celebration is very much like the one for New Year’s & Ash Wednesday where the people dress in large masks with eerie lit eyes that are supposed to ward off evil spirits. It seems that the Germans look for any opportunity to get together with their neighbors and have some drinks!
(But not our Christian German friends! :)