Small Town Tradition: The Lorchhausen Kerb

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As usual for Germany, it’s been a month full of festivals. A Harley Davidson festival full of bikers who had ridden in from all over Europe (including England), the typical summer Rheinland wine festivals and wine hikes, street food festivals, horseback riding tournaments, Wiesbaden’s big summer Wilhemstraβenfest, the enormous but short-lived Mainzer Johannisnacht to commemorate the summer solstice…

But the most interesting festivals for me are still the small-towniest of the small town festivals. And recently the sounds of a brass marching band and the sight of a few street festival rides and booths dragged us in to Lorchhausen at just the right moment to experience the highlight of their annual Kerb.

We pulled up to see every able-bodied man in this Rhein-side village carrying a massive tree – freshly cut, stripped of its bark, and decorated with ribbons and a pine wreath similar to a May pole – on their collective shoulders. After a swig of local white wine doled out from a large stoneware pitcher, they hemmed and hawed for the next half hour to raise the post. Clearly the entire process had been carefully planned and perfected over the years. Lashed wooden ladders and struts of varying lengths were systematically employed and replaced as the iconic tree shifted gradually into its correct position. Ropes attached were adjusted along the way, with long-handled hooks being necessary now and then to untangle them from the branches of living trees lining the path.

The rest of the townsfolk stood a safe distance back, mostly facing the Rhein just behind a row of long wooden picnic tables and benches, beer or bratwurst in hand, cheering on every success in the process. After all the hard work had paid off, the brass band started up again and the rest of the wine in the big pitchers was sloshed out to tree-lifters and bystanders alike.

Several other towns on the Rhein have these Kerb festivals, but Lorchhausen is proud to be the only town that preps and raises the post entirely by hand. Their celebration always takes place the first weekend in June. Primitive in its origins, complex in its execution, this was quite a unique festival that we happened to stumble across.

Setting up the fulcrum
Setting up the fulcrum

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