An an Expat in Germany, you’ll come to realise that there are a lot of traditional customs and festivals in Germany. Many have a Christian background, some are regionally limited, others apply throughout Germany. Find out 10 interesting traditions
Germany loves their traditions. You are bound to see and hear people talking about this tradition or that tradition. Find out the 10 most interesting traditions in Germany below.
“In Deutschland ist der Handschlag Standard” – most older Germans still stick to the old custom of only shaking hand – However, this custom has gone out of fashion for reasons of hygiene. Thanks to Corona, this custom is on it’s way to extinction. In recent years it has become common practice to greet friends and family with a kiss on the cheek or a hug. The greeting formula differs regionally (e.g. Grüß Gott, Servus or Moin Moin).
2. April Fool’s Day
April 1st is the custom to fool others with an April Fool’s Day joke. On this day you have to pay close attention to whether you can believe what someone is telling you. If you fall for the April Fool’s joke, the joker calls out “April, April”. It is not entirely clear where this custom comes from. Some suspect a connection with the changeable April weather.
The traditional Maibaim takes place on May 1st or at Pentecost, depending on the region. A tall tree trunk, which is colorfully decorated, is set up in a central place. However, this custom is not typically German, it can also be found in other countries; for example in Sweden and Switzerland.
Easter is a Christian festival. There are a number of customs on the Easter weekend. On Easter Sunday, for example, colorful Easter eggs are hidden that the children have to look for. They are told that the Easter Bunny hid them. The chocolate bunnies or the Easter lamb are also part of it. In some regions, an Easter fire is also lit, which has pagan origins.
Christmas is also a Christian festival. This includes a festively decorated Christmas tree. In Germany, many people go to church on the evening of December 24th. Afterwards, the presents are usually given, i.e. the presents are unpacked. But the pre-Christmas season (December) is already celebrated with traditional Christmas markets and Advent wreaths.
6. St. Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag)
This custom also falls in the run-up to Christmas. So on the evening of November 5th, the children put their shoes in front of the door. On the morning of November 6th, they find sweets or toys in it, which St. Nicholas supposedly brought. In some kindergartens or families, a disguised Santa Claus comes and brings the presents in person, not without first warning the children to be good.
7. All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen)
This is a Catholic custom. November 1st is a public holiday in Catholic areas. On this day the Catholic Church commemorates the saints. It is a quiet day and loud music or parties are not allowed. Many families go to the cemeteries and remember their deceased with a candle.
8. Kale meal (Grünkohlessen)
In northern Germany there is the traditional kale meal. After the first frost, many people go out in groups and with handcarts and hike to an inn. Games are played on the hike and alcohol is drunk to warm up. When you arrive at the inn, there is kale with potatoes and meat (for example cabbage sausage, Mettwurst, Kassler).
9. St. Martin Day
Running the lantern on St. Martin is a beautiful custom for children. The children, who are mainly of kindergarten age, march through the streets on the evening of November 11th with homemade lanterns singing in groups. The most famous song is probably “Lantern, Lantern – Sun, Moon and Stars …”
10. Oktoberfest (Wiesn)
This traditional Munich beer festival takes place every year at the end of September on the Theresienwiese. It is also known outside of Germany. At the Wiesn, as the Oktoberfest is also called, there are beer tents and rides and many visitors come in traditional costumes. The official start includes the arrival of the festival hosts with carriages decorated with flowers. The ruling mayor takes over the tapping of the beer.