The world is full of quirky traditions and customs that seem perfectly normal to those who have grown up with them but completely strange to outsiders. Germany is one such country where many of these practices have been in place for hundreds of years. Rather than laugh at their absurdity, though, we feel that some should be adopted by the UK. Here are a few examples.
Taking Birthdays Very Seriously
Birthdays are a big deal in Germany, a far cry from the British attitude of trying to avoid any mention of getting a year older. Starting from a young age, German’s are taught that birthdays are special and children are even given royal status at their school to mark the occasion.
Phrases such as ‘lass dich schön feiern’ (let yourself be celebrated well) and ‘reinfeiern’ (partying into your birthday at midnight) are regularly used and friends, family, and even that guy you met once at a work event all rally round to wish you happy birthday and make you feel appreciated.
One time when Germans might want to let their birthday pass under the radar is when they turn 30 – and not just because of the number. There’s a tradition that unmarried 30-year-olds should sweep the steps of the town hall on their birthday (often in drag) until they are kissed by a virgin.
This tradition is definitely something we can get on board with. We have our beloved full English breakfast and the Germans have weißwurstfrühstück. This hearty morning meal consists or weisswurst (white sausages), freshly baked pretzels, sweet mustard and a large glass of wheat beer. Mostly eaten in Bavaria, weisswurst are said to have been created by accident when an innkeeper ran out of pig sausage casings and used sheep casings instead, boiling them so as to not break the delicate membrane.
They turned out to be a success and there are now many traditions surrounding them. Firstly, they should be served in pairs and out of specially made pot filled with the water in which they were cooked. Also, because they are made early in the morning and do not stay fresh for long, the saying goes that ‘weisswurst should never hear the chimes of noon’.
Complementing Christmas Trees
Christmas is, quite rightfully, the season of goodwill and this festive tradition is nothing but heart-warming. Known as Christbaumloben (Christmas tree praise), many Germans like to visit the houses of their friends and family on Christmas Eve and compliment their elegantly decorated trees. The custom is to say ‘ein schöner baum’ (a lovely tree) but any compliment counts and is typically rewarded with a shot of schnapps from the hosts. You can imagine things could get a little fuzzy after you’ve paid your respects to three or four trees.
Sweets At School
Children everywhere will be wanting British schools to adopt this tradition, as it means they would get a cone of sweets on their first day. Known as Schultüten, the sugary gifts began over 200 years ago in the state of Thuringia.
Back in the 19th century, children believed that the sweets came from a sugar tree in the school’s basement and that they were grown in time to be ripe on their first day of school. Nowadays, the tradition has spread across a lot of Germany and the cones often include other offerings to sweeten the deal when starting full-time education.
If you were asked which country had a tradition that involves smashing plates then your first answer may indeed by Greece. However, there is also a custom in Germany which dictates this should be done on the evening before a couple’s wedding. Polterabend comes from the German words ‘poltern’ and ‘abend’, meaning ‘to make a lot of noise’ and ‘evening’, respectively. The act of smashing porcelain (usually plates) is said to ward off evil spirits and bring the couple good luck in their married life together.
If you would like to visit Germany, we can help to tailor-make a trip that includes everything you want to see and do. Call us on 0800 988 3369 or contact us through the website.