German Celebrations and
: In the month of
January, two main holidays are celebrated, Neujahr
(New Year's Day, January 1st) and the Three Kings and Epiphany (January
6th). Neujahr is celebrated to bring in the new year in place of the
old. Epiphany recalls the journey of the three wise men to Bethlehem to
bring gifts to infant Jesus. On this day, children dress up as the
three kings, wearing robes and singing carols, and go door-to-door
collecting candy or money for charities.
: Fasching begins
November 11th and continues until Ash Wednesday. High Karneval
week before the fasting
and religious activities of Lent, generally from mid February to mid
March. Although this period of time has Catholic heritage as
being time to celebrate life to the fullest before the
religiously restrictive period of Lent, it is now celebrated throughout
all of Germany. Karneval is generally a crazy time for feasting,
and merrymaking. Its is celebrated with costumes, parades, private
masked balls, and the election of the Prinz Karneval and his princess.
: The three main days of
the Easter, Ostern
celebration are Karfreitag (Good Friday), Easter Sunday, and Easter
Monday. The Easter bunny originated from the meshing Christianity with
the pre-Christian customs of honoring the spring goddess Eostre's whose
chief symbols were a hare, marking fertility, and an egg representing
creation. Throughout the Easter celebration, children hunt for colored
eggs, eat chocolate Easter bunnies and marzipan, a sweet candy made
from almond paste, and spend time with their families.
: May first is a double
holiday in Germany, celebrating both Erster
(May Day) and Tag
(Labor Day). May Day celebrates spring's victory over
winter. In smaller towns, a tall tree is placed the town center with
its lower branches and bark removed. The tree is decorated with
figurines, ribbons, and garland. The people in the village gather in
the town center for dancing, drinking, and socializing.
: With over 6 million
participants over the 16 day event, Oktoberfest
the world's largest festival.
Oktoberfest always occurs on a Saturday in September and ends the first
Sunday in October. The annual celebration began in 1810 when the Crown
Prince Ludwig wed Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildurghausen. The
citizens of Munich were invited to join in the 16 day festivities held
on the fields in front of the city gates marking the royal unification.
Over time, the celebrations have turned from the traditional horse
races to a more carnival atmosphere. Carousels, roller coasters,
open-air concerts, parades, and cultural presentations mark the event,
but the feast of traditional foods and beer make Oktoberfest
unique from other festivals. Throughout the festival, over 5 million
liters of Wiesenbier beer brewed especially for the celebration and
200,00 pairs of pork sausages are consumed annually.
der deutschen Einheit
(Day of German Unity), and Halloween are the
three main holidays in October. The German Thanksgiving occurs on the
first Sunday in October. As a mostly rural celebration, Erntedankfest
celebrates regional harvests with town parades, banquets, dances, and
games. The 3rd of October marks the Day of German Unity when East and
West Germany were officially unified in 1989 after the fall of the
Berlin Wall. Each year, a different German city hosts commemorative
festivities. Halloween is celebrated internationally as October 31st.
Children dress up in costume and go trick-or-treating.
November - December
: The Christmas season in Germany is full of
traditions. Advent is a four week long period celebrated throughout the
month leading up to Christmas Sunday.
celebrate Advent with advent calendars, opening a door each day and
receiving a chocolate. Families commonly light candles on a their
Advent wreaths (Adventskranz) each Advent Sunday to start the week. The
first Advent Sunday marks the opening of Germany's famous open-air
Christmas Markets found in nearly every village.
For children, one of the most exciting days in December is
(St. Nicholas Day). On the eve of
December 6th, German children leave their shoes out by the
door or on the windowsill in hopes of St. Nikolaus filling them with
presents. However, as tradition goes, St. Nikolaus’ mean helper will fill bad
children's shoes with coal. Children receive presents again on Heiligabend (Christmas
Eve), December 24th. Christkind (Christchild/Father Christmas) leaves
presents under the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree) and light the candles on it. The
Christmas bell is rung to announce the arrival of Christmas, and
children are allowed to open their gifts. The Christmas meal and main
celebration take place on this day, rather than the 25th of December.
On Weihnachten (Christmas Day),
the 25th of December, Germans
typically spend time at church and with their families. The 26th of
December, Zweiter Weihnachtstag
, is considered the second day of Christmas
where people celebrate with their friends. Silvester
or New Year's Eve caps off the month on December 31st. People have
parties and stay up until midnight to bring in the new year with
friends and fireworks.
German culture has progressed throughout
time, losing some of its older
less popular traditions and cultural aspects and adding
those relevant to the younger generation or the large immigrant
Soccer, now something of a national obsession, is a vital part of the
German culture today. "Fussball" is the most popular sport in Germany
by far. While soccer is played by across the country by millions,
Germans have great pride for their national team. Although they did
lost to Brazil in the final 2002 World Cup, Germany has claimed three
World Cup and is preparing to host the 2006 World Cup.
Immigrant customs and traditions have been integrated into many aspects
German culture. A significant example of this
is the Sorbian tradition of the Bird's Wedding. This wedding ceremony
celebrates the coming spring and the birds' thankfulness for being fed
throughout winter. The night before the ceremony, children set out
plates on their windowsill in hopes of birds bringing them sweets or
presents. On January 15th, children in elementary schools and
kindergartens dress up as various birds with one girl specially dressed
as the magpie bride and a boy as the raven bridegroom. A wedding meal
with dancing, singing, and celebration follows.
A schultuete, translated as a school cone, is give to children in
Germany as they set off for their first day of school. These large
decorated card board cones are usually given by parents or grandparents
and filled with sweets, school supplies, and toys.
Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 2004. "Germany,
Federal Republic of." Microsoft Corporations. Retrieved
November 6, 2004.
Robert Shea. 1997. "German and German-American Customs, Traditions,
Origins of Holidays." Retrieved November 18, 2004.
Photos courtesy of the Associated Press via the Tulane Library