As the first signs autumn is upon us start to appear (diminishing light, cool air, colorful leaves), Germans begin to look to the heavens in anticipation. They are looking up for good reason, it's about to start raining Castanian Nuts. What begins as a drizzle, soon turns into a downpour within only a few weeks. Castanians, or Chestnuts, fall from the trees with a well armored protective coating complete with nasty looking spikes. While I have yet to discover a single case of Death by Castanian, my wife (along with many other Germans) insist that one should NEVER find themselves directly under the path of a falling Castanian!
The same adults who fear for their lives, now send their children out into the streets to collect them. Once a Castania has landed it becomes perfectly safe for children. The armored, spiky shell of a Castania is no match against the power of small, determined fingers. As Castanians begin to pile up in parks and streets, children aappear in droves collecting them in baskets, buckets, bags bicycle racks and all sorts of makeshift containers. The Castanians used by Kinder (children) for a variety of creative projects, including: Painting, Jewelry and making Castanian Menchen (figures made by using wires, glue, paint and Castanians). Many schools encourage children to bring in Castanians for their art projects.
Adults (no longer in fear of their lives after a few weeks) also venture out to collect Castanians for many uses, including: Christmas Decorations, making laundry detergent, eating and of course, roasting over an open fire. The smell of Castanians (Chestnuts) roasting over an open fire is the first sign of the next German Juncture: The WienachtsMarkt Season. As a child growing up in Chicago, I never fully understood the significance of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" being the first line from The Christmas Song until moving to Berlin. The smell of roasting chestnuts truly is the first sign Winter and The Holiday Season are getting closer.
With the Castania playing such an important roll in the lives of children and adults this time of year, it's a good excuse for Germans to go a little "nuts"!