Germany: Taking the Circus to the Circus

Chris decorating the tree

Chris decorating the tree

Christmas Eve I watched my four nephews nearly die of present-unwrapping-anticipation-insanity and almost fell asleep during the evening mass. Neither Chris nor I are religious, but his parents wanted to go. I couldn’t follow the sermon, and I was surrounding by squirming, complaining Swabians, but I managed to not fall asleep and drool all over myself. I made sure to pay attention to Aunt Sigrid, who sang in the choir, against a backdrop of 700-year-old frescoes. Church let out and everyone walked through the village back home, through the black, cold night punctuated with candlelight through windows.

The choir in St. Michael's Church in Winterbach

The choir in St. Michael’s Church in Winterbach

Afterwards, we had white sausages and rolls with my parents-in-law and Sigrid. Chris and I got imitation ones from the natural food store. We had done the grocery shopping for everyone that day, and apparently the white sausages we got were awful. As a vegan, I thought the butcher, aka the Minister of Carcass at the House of Death, was a natural choice for buying sausage. In what was to be dubbed the White Sausage Scandal, everyone was unsatisfied. Me and Chris found our “meat of wheat” very delicious.

The next day when everyone gathered and were still complaining about the unsatisfactory sausages, my Bavarian brother-in-law, Michael, only somberly shook his head. “One simply cannot find good white sausage outside of Bavaria,” he declared.

Stylish Santa

Stylish Santa

Two of my nephews playing "DDR," wherein they issued us citations for being "suspicious"

Two of my nephews playing “DDR,” wherein they issued us citations for being “suspicious”

We ate sausages, NOT the substandard white ones (seitan steaks for me and Chris), red cabbage and mashed potatoes. Everyone did a really good job of pretending they weren’t pouring booze for themselves by topping everyone else off first before we ever emptied a glass. In this manner, I had “one” little glass of cognac that in actuality seemed like a pint. Throw in some red wine and the fact we sequestered the four sugar-crazed nephews in the basement and we had a great time.

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He’s reading “The Sophists” while smoking a candle

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Keep it classy

The day after Christmas is also included in the official line-up of holidays. We decided to go to the Waiblingen Christmas circus. As an American, I fretted over the fact that 1,000 people had only one option to exit the tent in event of a fire or an elephant driven mad by too many Christmas cookies: going through three tiny doorways in a succession of adjoining tents. As my nephews stuffed their faces with candy and beat each other up, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of the various acts.

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Little dogs with lion masks

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Just one of the pictures I will embarrass my nephews with later on

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I can’t explain this one

My mom claims I wasn’t into the circus as a kid, which really confuses me because I love animals. Old-fashioned things like juggling and saddle tricks on horses were mesmerizing. As a vegan, I don’t have the problem with zoos I’m “supposed” to have. Dogs and horses at the circus even don’t bother me, but elephants most certainly do. I love elephants, and I appreciate the opportunity to be near them as I’m too broke to do a trip to see them in their natural habitat, but they looked damn depressed having to twirl and bow on cue.

The nephews seemed to like the clown best of all. Even I have to admit, he was more funny than scary. But 2.5 hours in a warm tent crammed in with screaming, crying children of all ages was sensory overload, even with a break. Chris remarked, “The announcer is really creepy. Now he’s wearing women’s clothes.” I guess he’s never heard the expression of “circus freak.”

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