The famous Oberammergau Passion Play draws half a million people to Germany once a decade to watch small village perform the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As an epidemic raged across Europe, a picturesque German village in the mountainous south of Bavaria decided to do something about it.
Having already lost 80 of their own to the plague, the villagers of Oberammergau pledged to perform the Passion of Jesus Christ—his suffering, death, and resurrection—every tenth year, so that no one else might die.
So goes the historical legend of the origins of the Oberammergau Passion Play, an almost four-centuries-old tradition that takes place once every 10 years.
The year of the pledge was 1633, not 2020. The Pest—German for plague—was the so-called “Black Death,” not the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, in an ironic twist of fate, the 42nd Oberammergau season—set to run between May 16 to October 4, 2020—was postponed last week due to measures taken by local government authorities in response to the new coronavirus outbreak.
Oberammergau expected to host between 500,000 and 750,000 people—many of them pilgrims—for the 2020 performances.
In a statement, organizers said, “the health of our guests and contributors is a top priority for us, so those responsible have decided to postpone the premiere of the Passion Play.” The new premiere will be May 16, 2022.
The postponement is the latest in a string of challenges facing religious festivals, pilgrimages, and events across the globe this year. It is sure to have major impacts on the village of Oberammergau, the economy that surrounds the plays, and pilgrims planning to attend.
“We are in limbo,” said Cindy Friedrich, a 59-year-old from Apache Junction, Arizona, who was going to travel to Germany with 35 people from her church. “We are waiting to see what we will do, …
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