Germany is renowned around the world for their charming Christmas Markets and Gl√ºhwein (hot mulled wine), but there are some unique German holiday traditions that you may not have heard of. The festivities are centered on spending quality time with family and friends, and a bit of good humor is mixed in with some these customs. I hope you enjoy reading about the 5 following unexpected German holiday practices as much as I had fun in researching them.
Bundesurlaubsgesetz The Federal Holiday with Pay Act
In Germany, it is customary to receive a minimum of 20 paid work days, including benefits, annually. On top of this, a holiday bonus is also given to workers. The 20 paid days off is only the minimum amount of time employees are usually granted, and it is common for many companies to offer their employees 30 days of paid holiday time yearly. Before the season of winter celebration begins, most Germans have the good fortune of being able to look forward to a nice break from work, and they can make plans on where they wish to spend the holidays and ring in the New Year with family and friends.
The German Christmas Pickle: Myth or Fact?
There are stories that have been passed around via internet on this supposed German tradition. If you have some time to spare, put German Christmas Pickle into a web search engine to see if you can figure this one out for yourself. One version of this legend is that each year a real pickle is hidden somewhere in the branches of the Christmas tree, and the first child to spot the gherkin on Christmas Day is rewarded with an extra gift. Modern day versions of this tale tell a similar story, but a glass pickle ornament has taken the place of the edible version. Interestingly, if you ask a German about this holiday custom, most will respond saying that they have never heard of this oddity. Here‚Äôs a link to an ornament shop in Lauscha, Germany, and as you can see they sell glass pickles to hang on your tree.
Bleigie√üen Lead Pouring
Bleigie√üen, lead pouring, has existed since pre-Roman times, and today the ritual is done on Silvester (New Year‚Äôs Eve). A lead pouring kit may be purchased that will include little lead figurines, a spoon, and a candle. The lead is melted over the candle flame, and then it is poured into a bowl of cold water. The metal shape that is created from this process is supposed to tell you the future of the New Year. For example if the lead comes out in the form of a heart, you will experience love in the year.
Dinner for One or Der 90. Geburtstag The 90th Birthday
A cult classic film that Germans traditionally watch either New Year‚Äôs Eve Silvester or New Year‚Äôs Day is a British sketch that made its debut on German TV in 1963. It is an 18 minute black and white comedy in English. Curiously, it was never aired in Great Britain, but it was a huge hit in Germany. Originally a 1920‚Äôs play written by Lauri Wylie, it is a performance starring a woman, Ms. Sophie, on the celebration of her 90th birthday, and she surrounded by her friends sitting at the dining room table. The funny twist to the plot is that Ms. Sophie has outlived all of her friends, and her dinner invites are imaginary companions. To this day Germans are able to recite the lines of this film, in English, by heart.
Feuerzangenbowle Fire-Tongs Punch
This German festive punch is a holiday tradition that originates from a 1943 movie Die Feuerzangenbowle, and both the beverage and film became wildly famous after its initial showing. The drink is a mix between mulled wine and caramelized rum soaked sugar, but it is the preparation of the Feuerzangenbowle that has evolved into the popular modern spectacle it is today. A rum drenched, loaf-size sugar log is set ablaze in a special metal contraption which has been made just for the occasion. It looks similar to a fondue set up, but the mulled wine sits in a warmed pot while flaming rum is ladled over the sugar loaf. The sweet log like creation sits on a grate above the pot. Slowly, the caramelized rum sugar fusion melts into the mulled wine below. The spirit is served while it is still warm.
This year when you and your family take part in some of the many diverse holiday celebrations that we have in the United States, it may be fun to consider that whatever we may be doing during this time could seem completely foreign to someone else from another country. Should you decide to try some of these German traditions that have been listed above, do proceed with caution if you handle lead or if you are setting anything on fire. Experience some of these German customs in person, and book flights to Munich for you and your family this year. Happy Holidays!