Beyond History Blog

The carrot-and-stick-policy on the isle of Borkum

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 04. December 2015 - General, Germany, Old Customs, Traditions

Tomorrow night, the night from December 5th to December 6th, the „Klaasohm“ will be walking abroad again.

This old custom is said to date back to the time when the mostly poor population of Borkum earned a little bit extra by whaling. In late autumn and after long absence aboard ship, the men returned to the island which had been firmly in the hand of the women during the summer. In this special night the men come to claim back their supremacy. 

So what exactly happens in this night?

The unmarried men of the island meet in 3 groups and walk about the island, cautiously avoiding to meet one of the other groups before 11 p.m. A total of 6 young men are chosen from these 3 groups who are to wear the “Klaasohm” costumes and lead their group. The costume consists of, among other details, feathered masks which make it hard for the men to see, but also ensure they cannot be recognized too easily. While they make their way across the island all women who dare to be seen in public space will be caned by the “Klaasohms” with a cowhorn.

One would think that the women were smart enough to avoid the streets but quite the opposite is the case: the young ladies of Borkum also prepare for this night from September on, and the one bearing the most bruises is celebrated as their heroine. One year, when glaze made it difficult for the girls to run they got valuable tip from the experienced mothers and grandmothers; thus, they simply pulled socks over their shoes to prevent slipping.

Only mothers with children are spared; they and also the women who were thrashed receive some “Moppe”, a kind of firm honey cake.

At the closure of the evening the 3 groups come together on a place called “D” for its shape. There is an advertising pillar which the “Klaasohms” climb onto and plunge down into the mass of their companions. 

As mentioned, the “Klaasohms” are hardened fellows to who glaze doesn’t matter, but sometimes a heavy December storm interferes; thus, one year this traditional procession had to be adjourned due to a storm warning.

Tomorrow night, the night from December 5th to December 6th, the „Klaasohm“ will be walking abroad again.

This old custom is said to date back to the time when the mostly poor population of Borkum earned a little bit extra by whaling. In late autumn and after long absence aboard ship, the men returned to the island which had been firmly in the hand of the women during the summer. In this special night the men come to claim back their supremacy. 

So what exactly happens in this night?

The unmarried men of the island meet in 3 groups and walk about the island, cautiously avoiding to meet one of the other groups before 11 p.m. A total of 6 young men are chosen from these 3 groups who are to wear the “Klaasohm” costumes and lead their group. The costume consists of, among other details, feathered masks which make it hard for the men to see, but also ensure they cannot be recognized too easily. While they make their way across the island all women who dare to be seen in public space will be caned by the “Klaasohms” with a cowhorn.

One would think that the women were smart enough to avoid the streets but quite the opposite is the case: the young ladies of Borkum also prepare for this night from September on, and the one bearing the most bruises is celebrated as their heroine. One year, when glaze made it difficult for the girls to run they got valuable tip from the experienced mothers and grandmothers; thus, they simply pulled socks over their shoes to prevent slipping.

Only mothers with children are spared; they and also the women who were thrashed receive some “Moppe”, a kind of firm honey cake.

At the closure of the evening the 3 groups come together on a place called “D” for its shape. There is an advertising pillar which the “Klaasohms” climb onto and plunge down into the mass of their companions. 

As mentioned, the “Klaasohms” are hardened fellows to who glaze doesn’t matter, but sometimes a heavy December storm interferes; thus, one year this traditional procession had to be adjourned due to a storm warning.

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1 comments

Jana Last

11. December 2015

Hi,

 

I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/12/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-december-11.html

 

Have a wonderful weekend!