* German religion : ceremonies and events

German Events and Ceremonies: Children's Participation

Figure 1.--Here we see an unknown event at what looks like a German church with a flower boy. The photograph is undated but was probably taken about 1970.

Children partricipated in a range of Christian religious ceremonioes and celebrations in various ways. We have less information on Germany's small Jewish community. Baptism, First Communion, and Communion were specifical children. They involved children, both boys and girls, at three age stages. There wee akso choirs which were mostly religious in character. We do not have many photographic images from the 19th century and are not sure just why. Photohroaphy was well established in Germnany, especially by the late-19th centuyry. There is extensive information from the 20th century, even during the NAZI era where the churches, especially the Catholic Church, came under attack. The children dressed up for these events. And we have many images of them as partents liked to have images, bith studio portraits and family snapshots. The outfits were formal through much of the 20th century, but have become more informal, especially for the boys. Altar boys participated in a wide range of ceremonies and events Weddings had ring bearers and flower girls. We are not so sure about Sunday School. This seems more important in Ameruca than European countries. We note some images where the event or ceremony is unclear. Religiius observation in Germany has steadily declined after World War II, many of the churches are now largely empty during services. The major exception to this are the Islamic mosques now in Germany.

First Communion

Germany is primarily a Protestant country, but there is a very large Catholic minority. Catholic boys often have special suits for first communion. At this time we know realtively little about the styles. Some French boys wore sailor suits, I'm not sure if German boys did also. Some German boys wore white shirt pants suits, often with kneesocks. Some boys wore long stockings or tights. This is normally a nmajor event in a catholic boy's life and a major family celebration. Protestant boys may get new suits for communion or confirmation.


There are both Protestant and Cathholic confirmations. These used to be very important events in a boy's life. Some German boys for their confirmaton wear folk costumes. Many German children are confirmed, either in the evangelical or catholic church. It is a big day for them. Mothers would send out photographs of their sons in their new suit bought for confirmation. Friends and relatives might send the boy post cards asseen here. Religion is today less an influence in Germany than is the past. Church attendance, for example, is far below American trends. Thus conformation is a less important event than has been the case in the past. In the former DDR (Communist East Germany) many boys and girls who do not belong to any church also are expressing a desire to have some sort of an inauguration nowadays (Jugendweihe). Interestingly the NAZIs were condidering some sort of non religious ceremony replacing confirmation as they hoped to eventually phase out Christanity from German life.

Altar Boys

Catholic boys may also serve as altar boys. Wilhelm Hünermann in 1950 published Die Lausbuben des lieben Gottes. It contains stories about altar boys in Germany (mainly the Rhine Area, although the places can't be located exactly) and abroad. It's kind of writing is very edifying and pious, today only a few persons would read it, except one of our HBC contributors who is interested in differences between altar boys before and after II Vatican Council. Hünerman wrote that one of these altar boys had his First Communion 3 years before the time of the story and that he was confirmed 2 years later. Assuming, as it is usually the case in Germany, that children take their First Communion around 8 years of age and he was confirmed around 13 years old. That would make him about 11 years old when the story was set and he was serving as an altar boy.


Many countries of Western and Central Europe have a long tradition of church boys' choirs dating back to the medevil era. Germany has like, neigboring countries, has an important choral tradition. Some of the most beautiful choral music has been written by German composers, for choirs--including many pieces for boy choirs. A great deal of music scholarsip exists on this music. Much less information exists on the choirs and boys who sang this music.


We do not yet have much information on German weddings. We do not know about any specifically German wedding traditions. Hopefully our German readers will provide us some insights. Most of the images we have seen look rather like weddings in other Western European countries. We have a few German wedding traditions, but not yet enough to assess German weddings in any detail. Germany was both Protestant and Catholic thus there were a range of traditions involved. There was by the 20th century a strong socialist movement, thus we suspect that many Germans, especially working-class Germans, were married outdide the church. Middle-class Germans almost always would have had church weddings. The clothes worn by children were affected of course by social class. Boys were more likely to have costumes in the weddings of affluent families. We note costumes for both ring bearer or ushers. We also note flower boys, although weare not sure how common that was. We see a German 1932 wedding on the previous page. It looks rather like a modest income, working-class family family. We suspect that it represents a good idea of how many Germans married in the 1930s. Here we see a more elaborate wedding of a naval officer Figure 1). The boy, however, foes not seem especiall dressed up.


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Created: 4:32 PM 12/7/2020
Last updated: 4:32 PM 12/7/2020