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Germany has a deep history and has been a major player in Europe’s past.  From this stems a culture that is filled with meaningful customs and traditions, celebrated holidays and events, and myths and folktales.  Germans take pride in their traditional celebrations whether they are patriotic such as Tag der deutschen Einheit (Day of German Unity), religiously based such as Allerheiligen (All Saints) and Allerseelen (All Souls), well known holidays such as Weihnachten (Christmas) and Ostern (Easter), more personal events such as weddings, birthdays, and funerals, or large public events like the well known Oktoberfest.

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Life Events

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Folklore

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Holidays

Life Events

Weddings

One rule about German weddings is that a "special" place is to be chosen for the wedding, rather than following the general rule of havingCOU-12LA002-001 - Bride and Groom Dancing the wedding at the bride's family church as done in some cultures.  The bride should carry salt and bread as an omen for good harvest, and the groom should carry grain for good luck and wealth.

For more information on German weddings, click here:  http://www.leavenworthweddings.com/GermanTrad.htm

 

Birthdays

The parents of the child usually prepare his or her birthday parties.  Invitations are generally sent to other children.  At the party, drinks are served while the cake is being cut and then eaten.  Before being eaten however, the candles are lit and the visitors sing “Happy Birthday to You” or "Zum Geburtstag viel Glümlck” or others.  The cake usually has one candle per year of the child’s life.  The “birthday child” makes a wish and then blows the candles out.  If all the candles are blown out in one try, then his or her wish will come true.

Funerals

According to the German custom, the funeral takes place 3 to 4 days after the person passes.  For the funeral service, relatives, friends and acquaintances assemble in front of the mortuary and then accompany the deceased together with a priest and ministrants, in black and violet robes respectively.  The coffin is placed in the church in front of the high altar.  The priest says the requiem at the coffin, sprinkles it with Holy water and uses incense.  While the bells are tolling, the coffin, accompanied by the mourners is taken to the open grave and four pall-bearers lower the coffin into the grave.  The priest then gives a short speech.  Next the priest says some prayers and begins the prescribed ceremonies. 

More information about these German life events and others can be found here:

http://www.serve.com/shea/germusa/customs.htm

http://www.travelsthroughgermany.com/website2/traditions.htm

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German Folklore & Fairytales

Cinderella

The story of Cinderella is just one of the many Grimm Brother’s fairytales that teach German’s lessons in life.  Cinderella’s mother passed away and left her with her wicked stepsisters who force her to be their slave.  When it came time for the prince's dance, Cinderella wMI-048-0102 - Glass slipper/If the shoe fitsas not allowed to go.  A little bird threw a beautiful dress down to her, so Cinderella went to the dance.  At the dance, the prince took her and did not leave her side the entire night.  As Cinderella left the dance, she lost one of her slippers.  The prince went on a mission to find Cinderella to make her his bride.  Finally, he found Cinderella.  He forced her stepmother to allow her to try on the shoe, the prince found his bride.  The evil stepsisters and stepmother were punished by birds for their horrible deeds.  This story continues to teach the lesson that for wickedness and falsehood, a person will be greatly and forever punished.

Hansel and Gretel

The Grimm Brother’s teach another life lesson through the folktale of Hansel and Gretel.  The father of the two and his wife could not feed the children, so they sent Hansel and Gretel into the deepest part of the forest to fetch wood.  All the children had to eat was a tiny piece of bread.  They had been in the forest for quite sometime before they found their way home, which pleased their father.  Later, they were sent even further into the woods again, but with less to eat.  The children were out until the next morning when they found a house made of sweets and began to eat it.  The woman of the house invited the children in and turned them into her slaves.  The children finally got away with pearls and precious stones.  They ran back to their father and his wife had passed away.  The lesson taught is that everyone can make it through the tough times and will succeed in the end.

Sankt Nikolaus

The day of St. Nikolaus does not come on December 25, but it comes on December 6.  When evening comes, the gray bearded man along with St. Peter the angel will come to each house’s door to ask about the behavior of the children.  In order to show their behavior, the children sing, deliver a verse, or show their skills in Santa Claus and Elves Reading...some other way.  The naughty children deal with the sinister companion, Ruprecht.  St. Peter, the Christchild, allowed the candle-lit Christmas tree and the placement of the emphasis on the birth of Christ shifted the role of St. Nikolaus to a gift-giver.  Knecht Ruprecht became the patron saint of Christmas and was called Weihnachtsmann or Santa Claus.

 

The Pied Piper

In 1284, the town of Hamelin was infested with rats.  Nothing the town tried would get rid of the rats.  A strange man came into town and said that he could get rid of the rats on his own.  At night, he started playing a song on his flute to entice all of the rats out of homes to where they would drown.  The mayor refused to pay the man, so the next day he came back.  While everyone was at church, the man attracted the children towards him and into a cave and were never seen again.  The legend of the Pied Piper is one based off of an event that really occurred in Hamelin. 

More German folktales and fairy tales can be read at the following website:

 http://www.bayswaterps.vic.edu.au/lote/maerchen/project.htm

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German Holidays & Celebrations

German Holidays

Jan 01         New Year’s Day

Jan 06         Epiphany       

Apr 18        Good Friday

Apr 20        Easter Sunday 

Apr 21        Easter Monday

May 01       Labor Day     

May 29      Ascensions Day

Jun 08       Whit Sunday 

Jun 09       Whit Monday

Jun 19       Corpus Christi Day

Aug 15      Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Oct 03        Day of German Unity

Oct 31        Reformation Day

Nov 01      All Saints Day

Nov 19      Day of Prayer and Repentance

Dec 25      Christmas  

Dec 26      2nd Christmas Day

Easter

The characteristic animals for the German Easter celebration are the “Easter Rabbit” and the “Easter Lamb.” Children believe that the Easter Rabbit comes on Easter SuJC002508 - Colored Easter Eggsnday and jumps around hiding Easter eggs.  It is a family tradition to have a breakfast with hard boiled eggs, and then attempt to find the hidden eggs.  They have a traditional joint of lamb, beef or pork.  People also make big Easter Fires to celebrate this holiday.  These fires are a sign of victory of light and warmth over the hardness, darkness, and coldness of the winter.

Day of German Unity

This is a national holiday in Germany commemorating reunification of the two Germanys after 40 years of separation.  Germany was unified on October 3, 1990. People come together in Berlin to celebrate the reunification.

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is a traditional festival that lasts two weeks.  In October 1810, Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese married, and invited the whole townTL003291 - Two Bavarians at Oktoberfest of Munich to the reception.  The importance of the origin of the celebration allowed it to become a part of German tradition.  People dress in traditional clothing, and enjoy music, dancing and drinking.  Now, it has become a celebration of beer that draws people from all over the world.

All Saints Day

Halloween does not exist in Germany, but instead they celebrate All Saints Day on November 1.  On this day, families visit their relatives’ graves.  Afterward godparents come with gifts of braided sweet bread called “Strietzel” to their godchildren's homes.   "Strietzel" is a long bread, and it can be more than three feet long.  Germans can buy Strietzel from the neighborhood baker, but it is traditionally made at home.

Would you like to try baking Strietzel??

Ingredients:

1-1/2 oz. yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1-1/4 C. warm milk           

1/2 C. dried currants or raisins

4 tablespoons rum             

2-2/3 C. flour

3/4 stick butter, plus butter for coating

1/2 C. sugar

3/4 C. minced hazelnuts

1 egg

1 pinch salt


Directions

 In a bowl, combine the yeast with one tablespoon of sugar and about 3/4 c of warm milk.  Allow the mixture to ferment for approximately 15 minutes.  Rinse and drain the dried currants.  Soak them in rum.  Melt butter.  Blend all of the ingredients into the yeast mixture (butter, flour, remaining milk, sugar, egg, salt, hazelnuts, and rum-currants) and form into a dough.  Knead on a floured board until dough is elastic and no longer sticks to the board.  Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled (at least 1-1/2 hours).  Knead dough again and divide it into three pieces.  Roll the pieces on the floured board to an approximate length of 20 inches and braid them.  Place on a buttered baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.  Brush with melted butter and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400° F for 25 minutes.

Most delicious oven-fresh and coated with a powdered sugar glaze -- Guten Appetit!

For more recipes go to:

http://www.germany-info.org/relaunch/culture/life/recipe_archive.html

Christmas

For German people, Christmas is the most important holiday.  The festivities begin on Advent Sunday, four weeks before December 25.  St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, comes on December 5th to mark the beginning of the holiday.  Children place shoes or boots by the fireplace to be stuffed with nuts, fruits and chocolate.  Various decorations such as advent wreaths, candles, and calendars set the holiday mood.  The Christmas tree tradition is believed to have its origin in Germany in the 17th century.  People celebrate St. Thomas day on December 21st, the shortest day and longest night of the year.  December 24th is the big celebration of gift giving.  The following two days are holidays spent visiting friends and families.

For more information on German holidays, please visit these sites:

http://www.californiamall.com/holidaytraditions/traditions-germany.htm

http://www.about-germany.org/festivals/festivals.asp

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E-mail questions or comments to: mkfinney@depauw.edu
  May 6, 2003