Teenage hope and glory

There’s something decidedly surreal (not least in this age of Brexit bickering and bluster) about the sight of hundreds of German teenagers, dolled and dressed up to the nines, parading and tottering down the lengthy steps of Europe’s largest revue theatre — the Friedrichstadtpalast in Berlin — not only to onlookers’ rousing whoops and cheers, but to the pomp and circumstance of Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory.

Surreal, but real. For several Saturdays in the late spring and early summer, the almost 2,000 seats in the show palace fill up with families set on celebrating the coming of a certain age. Generally 14. When the childhoods of offspring are considered spent and their adulthood not yet fully upon them.

The Jugendfeier, as those grand Saturday morning gatherings are known, is a secular youth ceremony that first emerged in the mid-1800s as an alternative to confirmation. Back then, when it was staged on a smaller, less splashy scale, it marked a clearer turning point in the lives of young people: namely, leaving school. Read on or listen

Category: Writing

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