Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Talk about keeping a promise!

In 1633, the people of the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau made a promise to God that if He were to save them from the deadly throes of the Black Plague, they would re-enact the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ every ten years.

The first play was performed on Pentecost in 1634, and after being spared further devastation from the Plague--and attributing it to their vow--the people of Oberammergau have been performing the Passion Play every ten years since.

Christ and John, from the Passion Play 1900

It's not just a little play put on in the town theater. It's a massive theatrical production that takes four years of planning and preparations. And it's not just a few faithful villagers holding on to that old promise....it's literally the entire town! Over 2000 Oberammergau-ans halt their daily lives from May to September every ten years. It's organized by a specially elected Passion Play comission. It's held in a massive amphitheater that holds 5200 spectators. There is even a "Hair Decree" put into effect a year before the first performance, requesting all men taking part in the play to stop shaving and let their head and facial hair grow.

It's become a famous event, attracting tourists the world-over. Tickets go on sale two full years before the play starts. It's a big deal.

The last play was in 2000. My family had just moved to Germany, but we missed being able to go see the play. Being so close and missing such an opportunity made me even more determined to see it the next time, in 2010. Well, it's getting closer to 2010, and I still plan to travel to Germany to attend the Passion Play. It's become one of the checkboxes on my "Things To Do In My Lifetime" list.

I hear it's a pretty long and arduous production, sitting in uncomfortable wooden seats almost the whole day. But with the history behind the Passion Play and the straight up passion the people of Oberammergau put into it--I can't help but be eagerly excited to see such a cultural feat.

images from here, Wikipedia, and Google Images.

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