Political Ash Wednesday

Politicking after the end of Carnival has a long tradition in Germany.

Political Ash Wednesday

Passau, Germany (dpa) - Germany's major political parties were gathering once again for their traditional "political Ash Wednesday" assemblies to vent their views and take aim - often in jest - at their opponents.

Especially in focus is the Christian Social Union (CSU) gathering in the city of Passau in Bavaria, where the state's designated premier, Markus Soeder, was to be the key speaker. Meanwhile in Vilshofen, likewise in Bavaria, the deputy leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), Olaf Scholz, was the top official.

Later Wednesday, German Chancellor and chief of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Angela Merkel was due to attend a meeting of party members and backers in the town of Demmin in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

The political Ash Wednesday meetings, coming as the 40-day Lent season starts, goes back to a livestock market event in Vilshofen in the 19th Century. Then, with the carnival season just ended, political opponents engaged in acerbic verbal duels with each other.

After World War Two, it was initially the regionally-active Bavaria Party that revived the tradition. For decades the political Ash Wednesday gatherings were mainly associated with the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the CDU.

Long-standing CSU leader and Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss held forth in a small tavern for many years on Ash Wednesday, before deciding in 1975 to make the Nibelungenhalle concert hall in Passau the venue of his party's annual gathering, an event where the beer and political rhetoric flows freely. In the course of the years since then, the other parties began holding their own Ash Wednesday meetings along the same pattern.