Museum of European Cultures reopens in Berlin

Berlin, PerchtenThe Museum of European Cultures has reopened after a two-year renovation.

Located in Berlin, this museum focuses on the life of the common people of old Europe. While most museums focus on the famous accomplishments of the elite, this one looks at the everyday lives and traditions of regular people so often forgotten by the history books. Folklore museums can be found all over Europe and make for fascinating visits. With a collection of some 27,000 objects, the Museum of European Cultures is one of the largest.

The latest temporary exhibition is of the paintings of Wilhelm Kiesewetter, who traveled across Europe 150 years ago to paint the traditional costumes and lives of various ethnic groups. There’s also a study collection of old toys.

While many of the costumes and artifacts on display are now only museum pieces, some traditions have survived. One of the stranger ones takes place in the Alps over the Christmas season-the Perchten processions. Perchta is an old pagan goddess who was never quite suppressed by Christianity. She can appear as a beautiful maiden or an old crone and has single huge swan’s foot. She roams the countryside during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, checking to see if children and servants had been good and done their work. The good ones are rewarded with a silver coin in their shoe, while the bad ones get gutted and stuffed with straw.

Her entourage, called Perchten, includes glittering animal figures that bring luck and ugly critters like this one to scare away evil spirits.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.