When you live in Germany, you learn that they have a lot of rules. There are rules about recycling, and there are rules about driving. There are rules about being quiet, and not being quiet. There are rules about what you can eat and when you can eat it. For example in this area, a very common and well-known rule involves Carp, or as I like to call it “one of those gross, bottom-feeding fish.” Carp is extremely popular here in Franconia, but it can ONLY be consumed during months with an ‘r’ in the name. So if you like Carp, you better get your fill of it in April because you won’t find it in a restaurant again until September. Not happening.
As a non-German living in Germany, you have to take a lot of things on faith. This means that when someone tells me something that seems slightly odd, but says it’s a rule, I just go with it. Because who would tell me stories? That would be weird and pointless, right?
This brings us to gingerbread. In Nürnberg, it’s known as Lebkuchen and woo boy, is it big business this time of year. The city is famous for it, which means that once the Christmas market opens, you can’t swing a cat in this town without knocking over a display of it. Lebkuchen can of course be purchased all year round, and in fact, there was a whole Lebkuchen Week market set up in the middle of the city back in October. I thought that was a little strange, but BV assured me that it was mostly for the tourists.
Because you see, there was a rule about Lebkuchen.
For the three years that we’ve been dating, BV has been telling me that real Germans, and especially real Nürnbergers, don’t eat Lebkuchen until after St. Martin’s Day, or Martinstag, which is on November 11th. St. Martin’s Day also marks the beginning of the Carnival season, so it made total sense to me that the delicious gingerbread would be something you would eat at that time. But then… oh but then.
Kids… BV IS TELLING ME TALES.
That’s right, the war on cookies continues!
About two weeks ago in one of my classes, the topic of odd rules came up again. During the discussion, I mentioned something about the Lebkuchen rule, and was met with total blank stares. They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. We went through a few other rules, which everyone agreed on, but not one had heard about anything involving gingerbread and St. Martin’s Day.
It could be a fluke, I thought, especially given that I wasn’t actually in Nürnberg that day. Perhaps outside of town it wasn’t given the correct amount of gravitas? Could be.
So I decided to take a survey. Since then, I have asked every single one of my students, and not a one… NOT A ONE knows about this “rule.” The age range of my students is from 20-65+, and they cover a significant part of Franconia when it comes to places they live/have lived before. And not a single, solitary one of them knows this rule.
When I confronted BV with this information, he did not believe me. He stuck to his guns, insisting that it was a rule and that my students must simply be confused. I’m not sure there’s a ton of room for confusion on this matter, but he didn’t budge. I posited that it was perhaps only a rule in his house, put forth by his mother to keep the kids from eating too many sweets, but he brushed that off. It’s a rule and that is the end of the story.
Fine then honey, it’s a rule.
On St. Martin’s Day, I stopped into the store on my way home from work and purchased a small container of Lebkuchen. After dinner, I dramatically retrieved it, smacked it down on the coffee table and said, “and you shall not have any!”*
But from now on, if I get the urge to indulge in a chocolaty, frosty, tasty piece of Lebkuchen and it’s “off-season,” fake rules be damned. I’m going for it.
Have you heard of this “rule”? Can you defend BV?
*That was mostly for dramatic effect. Don’t worry mom and dad, I shared.