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Archive for the 'Life in Germany' Category

Walpurgis in Germany: Ready to Have a Witchin’ Time?

Witches, sorcerers, costumes, tricks, and superstition…no, it’s not Halloween! We’re talking about Walpurgis night in Germany. 

While you might not associate the beginning of spring with witchcraft and sorcery, this correlation has some interesting roots in numerous European countries. In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of this mystical holiday and how it’s celebrated today. 

Let’s go!

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1. What is Walpurgis Night?

Three Women Dressed as Witches Circled Around a Steaming Cauldron

Walpurgis is a festival that takes place each year, beginning on the night of April 30 and ending on May 1. This festival is also common in a number of other European nations, including Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia. 

Walpurgis Night is named after an eighth-century abbess named Saint Walpurgis (also known as Saint Walpurga). She was known for her effectiveness in spreading Christianity, as well as her supposed abilities to deflect witchcraft and heal a variety of ailments. After her passing, people would invoke her in their prayers in the hope that she would keep the witches at bay. 

You see, it was believed that witches and sorcerers would hold a Hexensabbat (Witches’ Sabbath) each year in the Harz Mountains atop Mount Brocken. They were thought to engage in crazy dances and conspire with demons—or even Satan himself—to harm Christians and cause other sorts of trouble. 

In addition to invocations of Saint Walpurga, people would light bonfires on the hillsides and create as much noise as possible to scare away witches. 

Over time, Walpurgis Day became less associated with actual witchcraft, and more and more people perceived this day as a time to reflect on the charms of such superstitions. Today, the holiday is mainly celebrated just for the fun of it, though the superstitions behind it are still strong in some places. 

    → Make sure you also brush up on your Religion vocabulary while you’re at it.

2. German Walpurgis Traditions

While this witch festival in Germany is celebrated in most regions, there are a few towns and regions that have larger celebrations than others: 

  • Thale
  • Goslar
  • Wernigerode
  • Brocken

These areas often have a variety of festivities going on for Walpurgistage (Walpurgis Day), such as dances, comedy shows, and juggling acts. Everyone will be dressed up in some sort of witch or sorcerer costume, broomsticks and all. There are also all kinds of fun stalls, from those selling tasty food to others showcasing arts and crafts. At night, there are fireworks. 

Wherever you go, there’s likely to be a Maifeuer (May bonfire). This is a large bonfire set at night, around which people dressed in costumes enjoy themselves with drinks and songs. A popular activity is called “May jumping,” and it involves couples jumping over parts of the fire that have started to die down. There’s a Christianized version of the bonfire called Easter bonfires. 

Walpurgis is commonly associated with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People may enjoy taking in the scenery and the warmer weather, and it’s popular to sing a number of May- and spring-related songs. Drinking something called woodruff punch is another common activity; this is a special alcoholic beverage made using white wine, semi-sparkling wine, and a type of plant called woodruff

Walpurgisnacht in Germany is also a time to expect pranks from youngsters. Many of Germany’s youth seize the opportunity to hide personal belongings or spray paint public property. 

The day following the Walpurgisnacht witch festival is Maifeiertag (May Day), and this is when the maypole is erected in many German towns. In bigger cities, this often involves brass bands and even a city fair. Though this is less common nowadays, it’s worth noting that Walpurgis and May Day are associated with leftist riots as well. 

    → Spring Break might be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rest of spring. 😉 Check out our list of the Top 15 Things to Do Over Spring Break for some inspiration.

3. Walpurgis in Literature and Theatre

Did you know that Walpurgis night in Germany features in famous pieces of literature and other art forms? Here are just a few examples: 

  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

4. German Vocabulary You Should Know for Walpurgis

A Walpurgis Bonfire

Ready to expand your German vocabulary? Here are some of the words and phrases from this article, plus a few more: 

  • Mai / May
    • noun, masculine
  • Hexe / Witch
    • noun, feminine
  • Berg / Mountain
    • noun, masculine
  • Glocke / Bell
    • noun, feminine
  • Besen / Broom
    • noun, masculine
  • Tanz in den Mai / Dance into May
    • phrase, masculine
  • Heilige Walburga / Saint Walburga
    • phrase, feminine
  • Maifeiertag / May Day
    • noun, masculine
  • Maifeuer / May bonfire
    • phrase, neutral
  • Hexensabbat / Witches’ Sabbath 
    • phrase, masculine
  • Walpurgistage / Walpurgis day
    • noun, masculine
  • Aberglaube / Superstition
    • noun, masculine
  • Zauberer / Sorcerer 
    • noun, masculine
  • Maibaum / Maypole
    • noun, masculine

Make sure to visit our Walpurgis Night vocabulary list to hear and practice the pronunciation of each word! 

Final Thoughts

Walpurgis night is a fun holiday with some more serious background. What are your thoughts on this holiday? Is there a similar festival or celebration in your country? 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to continue learning about German culture and the language, then head over to the following pages on GermanPod101: 

If you would like to start making the most of your time studying with GermanPod101, create your free lifetime account today and gain access to tons of fun and practical lessons and materials. Learning German can be a challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone.

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Dreikönigsfest: The Epiphany Holiday in Germany

Germany is a predominantly Christian nation, with over half of its population identifying as Christian. As such, it should come as no surprise that Christian holidays, such as Dreikönigsfest (Epiphany), are widely celebrated here.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Epiphany holiday in Germany. Because this is such a special occasion in the country, exploring its origins and traditions will help you become better acquainted with German culture as a whole. 

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Epiphany All About?

Silhouettes of the Three Wise Men Riding on Camels

Epiphany is a religious Feiertag (holiday) on which Christians commemorate the three wise men who followed a bright star to find Baby Jesus. This is an important holiday for Catholic and Protestant believers in the country, and it has public holiday status in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Saxony-Anhalt.

The story behind the Epiphany holiday is as follows:

Three wise men named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar noticed an unusual star in the sky while they traveled. Amazed by the sight, the trio decided to follow after it and were led to the birthplace of Jesus. Seeing this as the Offenbarung (revelation) of their Savior being born, they offered Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Many Christians consider this a key event in the story and life of Jesus. During Christmas services a few days prior, many Kirchen (churches) read the story from the Bible or host a play outlining the story. 


2. When is Epiphany?

Each year, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. However, some churches hold their celebration services on the following Sunday. 

3. How is Epiphany Celebrated in Germany?

A Lantern on the Ground

There are several Feast of the Epiphany traditions in Germany, though the most important is that of the Sternsingers. These Sternsingers are groups of three children who are dressed in attire similar to what the wise men would have worn. They go from one home to another singing hymns and asking each homeowner to donate Gelde (money) to charity. This tradition became less popular for a time, but it regained its prominence about fifty years ago. 

In addition to singing Lieder (songs), the Sternsingers sometimes mark the doors of the houses with special chalk blessed by the town’s local Catholic priest. The inscription includes the letters C, M, and B, and the numbers for the current year. In 2021, the inscription will look like this:

20 * C + M + B + 21

There are two schools of thought concerning the letters used. One is that the letters stand for the supposed names of the wise men (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar). The other is that it stands for the Latin phrase meaning, “Christ bless this house.”

Because Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season in Germany, another common activity on this day is to take down all of the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Sometimes, an entire community will get together and burn their Christmas trees as a festive group event. 

Finally, some people burn Weihrauch (frankincense), one of the wise men’s gifts to Baby Jesus, to let its smoke cleanse their home. 

4. Epiphany Feast Foods

Food is another big part of the Epiphany celebration in Germany. 

The most famous food item for this day is King Cake. This is a delicious dessert featuring a range of holiday season ingredients: brandy, raisins, vanilla sugar, and the list goes on. 

The night before, on Epiphany Eve, Germans also enjoy indulging in bockbier. This beer is often consumed during holidays, having a rather high alcohol content and a deep flavor.


5. Essential Vocabulary for Epiphany

A Hand Raised Toward the Sky in Light of a Revelation

Now let’s review some of the vocabulary words used in this article, plus a few more! 

  • Kind (Child) – noun, neutral
  • Bibel (Bible) – noun, feminine
  • König (King) – noun, masculine
  • Gelde (Money) – noun, neutral
  • Kirche (Church) – noun, feminine
  • Singen (Sing) – verb
  • Lied (Song) – noun, neutral
  • Feiertag (Holiday) – noun, masculine
  • Dreikönigsfest (Epiphany) – proper noun, neutral
  • Offenbarung (Revelation) – noun, feminine
  • Verkleiden (Disguise) – verb
  • Laterne (Lantern) – noun, feminine
  • Weihrauch (Frankincense) – noun, masculine

You can find each of these words on our Epiphany vocabulary list, accompanied by recorded audio pronunciations that you can practice along with! 

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Epiphany traditions in Germany with us, and that you feel inspired to keep exploring this rich culture. In addition to Epiphany, Germany celebrates a range of fascinating holidays all year long. To learn about them, check out the following blog posts on GermanPod101.com:

If you’re serious about your German studies, then create your free lifetime account with us today. We provide a number of practical lessons and resources for learners at every level, so you can jump right in wherever you are in your language learning journey. 

Happy learning!

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German Soccer

Soccer is the most important sport in Germany. More than six million members are organized in the German Football Association (DFB). In addition there are about four million people who play soccer in hobby teams on a regular basis.

 

In 2006 the soccer fever in the country reached a new dimension. The FIFA World Cup put Germany into a state of emergency. Houses and cars were decorated with flags. Even in companies television sets were installed, so that the employees did not miss a match of the national soccer team. Emotional higlights during that period were the fan parties. Thousands of people watched the matches together on huge screens and partied with the visitors from all over the world. The atmosphere was wild and peaceful. Also the weather contributed to the fantastic atmosphere. During the whole tournament there was perfect summer weather.

 

Hopefully this party will be continued in 2011. Then Germany will host the Women’s Soccer World Cup. Of course the German women will try to defend their actual world champion trophy in their own country.

Compared to the USA, women’s soccer still plays a minor role in Germany. There is an average of 800 to 1,000 onlookers at league matches. But the situation is slowly changing. Because of the two championship victories in the last World Cups, the regard is constantly increasing. In 2007 more than 20,000 excited people bid their welcome to the successful team in Frankfurt. With a total of eight championship victories at international tournaments, the women soccer team is even more successful than its male counterpart.

Now you understand the importance of Soccer in German society! Next time you play the sport, you will have these key elements in mind!

Bier

The picture of the beer drinking Germans is well used abroad. Indeed the cliche of a nation of beer drinkers is based on real facts. With a consumption of more than 110 liters per head Germany holds the second position in Europe. Only Czech people drink more.
But not only the consumption of beer in Germany is high, but also is the assortment of different kinds. Estimations say there are more than 5000 different beers.


Of course you won’t find all of them on the shelves in the supermarkets. Many beers come from small breweries which sell their products regional or direct to the customers. Nevertheless there is an impressive assortment in a German drinks cash-and-carry. In addition to regional and national kinds of beer you will find many international ones. Popular brands are for example Miller and Heineken. With this huge number of beers it is not easy to keep track of all of them.


The most important national kinds are pilsner, wheat beer, lager, dark beer and bock beer. In addition there are regional beers like “Alt” from the Niederrhein, “Kölsch” from Cologne and “Berliner Weiße” from Berlin. Some regional kinds of beer have loyal devotees. In the region between the big cities Düsseldorf and Cologne people are friendly arguing on the topic who enjoys the more tastefull beer. People from Düsseldorf swear by their “Alt”, people from Cologne defend their “Kölsch” emphatically. A special position on the beer market is held by the federal state of Bavaria. More than 50 percent of all German breweries are located here. Nearly every hamlet has its own small brewery.

Ratingen

 Ratingen is located in immediate proximity to Düsseldorf. With more than 90,000 inhabitants the town is middle-sized. People who like being outside in nature, can explore the woods which surround Ratingen. There are many paths for walkers, bikers and people on horseback. Furthermore the recreation parc “Green Lake” and the open air theatre at the “Blue Lake” are popular destinations.The centre of Ratingen is the townplace with its fountain and the surrounding old houses. Three times a week it is market day. 


Then it is possible to buy meat, cheese and flowers here. Extremely favored are fresh vegetables and fruits, which are mainly grown on farms in the Ratingen’s environment. In combination with “St. Peter and Paul”, the old church, the marketplace is a nice setting for many city festivals. A special experience is a summer evenig at the market place. If the weather is fine, it is barely possible to get a seat in one of the beer gardens. Nearly every chair is occupied, normally until 11 p.m. No wonder – the atmosphere ist fantastic. 
It is best, when the sinking sun baths the historical buildings at the market place in a golden light. Ratingen is an old town. A settlement of that name was first mentioned in the 9th century. In 1276 the settlement gained its town charter. Shortly after that the construction of the city wall begun. Until today three towers and some other parts of the fortification survive. 


On a trip to Ratingen you should not miss it. You will get an extremly good impression of the fortification and its construction at the “Big Tower”. In addition to the city wall you can see parts of the city moat there. Ratingen is located between three freeways. There is no place in the city from where one needs more than 15 minutes to reach a freeway entrance ramp. Furthermore the train connections to Essen and Düsseldorf are good and the airport in Düsseldorf can be reached in just a few minutes. Because of its good travel connections and the proximity to Düsseldorf Ratingen’s economically growth is good. Since local business taxes are less high than in other areas many companys from sunrise industries are moving to Ratingen.

To Live and Work in Germany, You Have to Start Here!

Every country and culture has their own unique way of defining what is proper behavior when meeting someone new. In Germany, you may have seen that people sometimes hug of exchange kisses on the cheek, like the French do. However, it is a recent trend, as  only young people will get as close as that. As a rule of thumb, most Germans will shake hands while bowing their heads a little, kind of like a nod.

Another thing to be taken into consideration when greeting someone, is also the rank of the person. The older or higher-ranking person should offer his hand first. If you offer your hand to somebody ranking higher than you, a few will even snub it, but fortunately they are the minority. Of course, a general cultural rule is sometime not followed even by the natives in some cases, and being a foreigner might give you a bit of leeway, but in the case of , especially, a professional work environment, we recommend that you keep in mind the general customs, as first impressions are very important.
Germans are known to observe the rules (in particular the uneducated may not), please try to observe etiquette when in Germany, as that will definitely help your career in Germany. We are sure that people will take into account your manners and you will be much more appreciated for your courtesy.

Also, it is quite important you don’t forget to bow your head a little when shaking hands. If If you keeping looking straight ahead,
people will instinctively perceive you as arrogant. And we sure don’t want you to give the wrong impression!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year From GermanPod101.com!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from everyone here at GermanPod101.com! We’re grateful to have listeners just like you, and we’re eagerly waiting for the upcoming year to learn German together!

And when the New Year comes around, be sure to make a resolution to study German with GermanPod101.com!

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

From the GermanPod101.com team!

Soccer craze in Germany! 2

Germany won last night 3:2 against Turkey, after a very spannend (exciting) match. Both Mannschaften (teams) played exceedingly well. Of course LOTS of people were watching, many of them at public viewing places, so they could share the Erfahrung (experience) with other fans. One of the largest public viewings was in Berlin between the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) and Yitzhak-Rabin-Straße. 500,000 people could fit there – and already one hour before the match that limit was reached and further fans could not be accomodated. Can you imagine that? A tenth of the Bevölkerung (population) of Berlin’s larger metropolitan area was there to see the match, one hour before it even started!

Also a lot of people were probably watching the match in their local Kneipe (pub) or on their TV – public television broadcast the match live, though with some Sendestörungen (disruptions of the transmission).

Anyway, now Germany will face either Spain or Russia in the finals. The Gegner (opponent) is decided tonight, and the big match will be on Sunday. If you are at all into soccer, don’t miss this! Of course the best thing to do for your German is to watch the match with German commentary – after you have studied Advanced Audio Blog #6 for some basic vocabulary.

Soccer craze in Germany!

Right now, if you go to a German pub, if you take a taxi or even just if you walk along a street, you can’t avoid talk about Fußball (soccer). Germany is on its way to become Europameister (European champions) this year, and everybody is going crazy. Turkey still has a good chance of winning, so really everybody is going crazy. (Turks are the largest group of immigrants in Germany.)

This is the one time when people will show off German flags, when normally they’re taboo. The year Germany became runner-up to Weltmeister (world champion) at soccer, there was actually a shortage of flags because the stores were unprepared. And tonight is going to be the craziest game of all: Germany against Turkey in the semi-finals. Everybody is talking about it, even the foreign press noticed.

Let me tell you: even in peaceful times the majority of Germans can explain the most obscure rules of soccer. If you don’t know what soccer is about right now, or if you don’t have any opinion about the upcoming game, you’re out. You can’t retain any kind of respectability in Germany. So, if you expect to come into any kind of contact with Germans during the rest of the European cup, or if you always wanted to know what the craze is about, study

Advanced Audio Blog #6

– all about soccer.