Every February, we Americans miss a golden opportunity.
We mark the approaching end of Winter with a few tried and true (and honestly, kind of boring) traditions.
Don’t get me wrong; I like groundhogs just as much as the next guy, but dang, is that it? Couldn’t we jazz up the equinox with a little something besides large rodents and spring cleaning?
Yes, we could. And it’s called Scheibenschlagen.
Several weeks ago, some German friends invited me to join them at a Scheibenschlagen. I accepted, even though I had no idea what they were talking about. When the day arrived, we drove to a small town outside of Freiburg and hiked up a snowy hill.
At the top, I saw that the folks who had already arrived seemed to be roasting marshmallows over several large bonfires. On closer examination, however, I saw they were actually using their sticks to light the edges of small wooden discs.
This struck me, as I’m sure it does you, as odd. But this was only step one. After successfully setting their miniature frisbees ablaze, they walked over to a wooden board which seemed to be set up as a kind of launch ramp.
This, dear reader, is where the fun began.
Once they reached the ramp, the participants would start to swing their burning disc (the Scheibe) back and forth, until they finally whacked (schlagen) it against the board. This sent the flaming saucer soaring into the night sky, it’s quite literal burning ring of fire briefly illuminating the darkness beyond.
I immediately knew I had to do some scheibenschlaging of my own, and I was actually pretty good at it. The motion required to send the disc into the air was fairly similar to swinging a baseball bat (which, considering my less-than-impressive baseball skills, was more helpful than expected). At the end of the night, I even tried my hand at the annual Scheibenschlagen competition. My luck quickly ran out against the more experienced Germans, but I did pretty well for a beginner.
Suffice it to say that I have a new favorite sport. This obscure southwest German pastime is basically like getting in some swings at the driving range, except instead of a golf ball, imagine sending a fiery discus into the stratosphere. My mind was blown.
I recently talked with Papa (my dad’s father) and told him about this life-altering experience. I suggested that I might do some Scheibenschlagen practice on his farm when I get back to the States. He suggested that I would do no such thing, but I’m hoping he’ll change his mind.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
More info on Scheibenschlagen can be found here.
Many thanks to the Zeuners for their kindness and hospitality.