Author Archives: Oktoberfest for Teens

Frohe Ostern!

Easter is one of the most popular holidays in Germany. After a long and cold summer, Easter marks the beginning of spring. If you are spending Easter in Germany, the one phrase you should memorise is ‘Frohe Ostern’ meaning ‘Happy Easter’. This is said to everyone around Easter time – from the cashier at the grocery store to your closest family members!




How is Easter celebrated in Germany? Well, it actually extends over the whole weekend:

The Easter weekend begins on ‘Karfreitag’ (Good Friday). Most Germans will eat fish on Good Friday and this often marks the beginning of a whole weekend spent together with the family.

Easter Saturday is a great day for visiting an Easter market where you can browse stalls filled with handmade Easter decorations or stop by the local bakery to buy a lamb-shaped cake. In north Germany it is tradition to have an Osterfeuer (Easter fire) on Easter Saturday evening which helps chase away the dark spirits of winter and welcome the spring time.

Finally, Easter Sunday is the highlight of the weekend. In the morning, children will often complete an Easter-egg hunt, followed by attending a church service and a big family lunch which is traditionally made up of lamb, potatoes and vegetables.


We wish you a frohe Ostern!


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Karneval is also known as the silly season in Germany. Although it officially begins on the 11th of November (on the 11th of the 11th at 11:11 o’clock), there is a winter break and the biggest days of Karneval this year are from the 8th to the 13th of February.

Karneval is made up of the following main days:

Thursday – Weiberfastnacht ([Old] Women’s Karneval)

Friday – Ruβiger Freitag (Sooty Friday)

Saturday – Nelkensamstag (Carnation Saturday)

Sunday – Tulpensonntag (Tulip Sunday)

Monday – Rosenmontag (Rose Monday)

Tuesday – Fastnachtdienstag (Shrove Tuesday)

Tuesday marks the end of Karneval and is followed by Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday) which is the first day of lent.




Karneval is celebrated in many regions throughout Germany, but is sometimes also referred to as Fasching or Fastnacht. Some German Karneval traditions can be traced back to hundreds of years ago when people would dress up in bright colours and wear scary masks to scare away the devil or the evil spirits of winter.




Nowadays, Karneval celebrated with costumes, parades, eating and merriment! The festivities begin on Weiberfastnacht – the day of the women! On this day women rule! The party continues on Sooty Friday where the carnival proceedings are shown on most TV channels – the day features dances, sketches and speeches. On Saturday and Sunday there are smaller parades in the small cities or villages where groups dress up in matching costumes and walk in an organised parade throwing out candy and other goodies to the bystanders. These two days are also known as the calm before the storm that is Rosenmontag. On Rosenmontag the big cities, such as Mainz and Cologne host their parades which are attended by thousands of spectators. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of Karneval and people will often attend a ball where they take off their mask at midnight to reveal their true identities.



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Kaspar, Melchior und Balthasar

The 6th of January marks the day on which the three wise men went to Bethlehem to visit the Baby Jesus. Although no physical evidence of their existence is available, their legend is still told today:

The three wise men travelled to Bethlehem from the Orient to visit Jesus and bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They followed a bright star (the star of Bethlehem) which guided their ways; this suggests that the wise men may have been astrologists. The name Kaspar (Caspar) stands for ‘Hüter des Schatzes’ (guardian of the treasure) and he brought myrrh as a gift which stands for being human (just as Jesus had to suffer later on in his life as many humans do). Melchior stands for ‘König des Lichts’ (king of the light) and brought gold which is a valuable treasure, one which was thought to be adequate for the son of God. Finally, the name Balthasar stands for ‘Gott wird helfen’ (God will help) and he brought frankincense which is considered a symbol of God.


Illustration of the holy family and three kings


Since the 16th century, the so called ‘Sternensingen’ (star singers) visit house to house on the 6th of January and sing about the story of Christ. They are often dressed as the three wise men and write the three wise men’s initials on people’s houses in chalk to bless it (C, M and B also stand for the Latin phrase ‘Christus manionem benedicat’ which means ‘Christ bless this house’). In return for their efforts they are often rewarded with treats or with money which is donated to the charity ‘Kinder helfen Kinder’ (children helping children) which collects money for children around the world who are suffering from poverty.


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Frohes neues Jahr!

Can you believe that 2017 has already come to an end? With many celebrations going on tonight, here is a quick guide on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Germany.

New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’

Funnily enough, New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’ in Germany which is in accordance with the German spelling of the name ‘Sylvester’. What significance does this name carry? The 31st of December is also the day on which Pope Sylvester passed away in the year 335. He is most famous for having cured leprosy and baptising Constantine… as you may have noticed, Germans love a good old tradition!



If you are spending Silvester in Germany, you will have noticed that every store is busy selling fireworks! Most Germans enjoy putting on their own fireworks, although these don’t even come close to some of the official fireworks, such as the ones in Berlin.



It is customary to give a marzipan pig to loved ones on Silvester to bring them good luck. On the night itself two common foods are raclette and fondue which are fantastic meals to share with large groups of family and friends.




Germans are quite superstitious people and one Silvester tradition is to do a Bleigieβen with your friends or family. It involves melting a small lead figure over a candle and pouring it into a bowl of water – the shape of the solidified metal is said to predict your fortune for the next year.


‘Der 90. Geburtstag’ oder ‘Dinner for One’

Last, but certainly not least, it would not be Silvester in Germany without watching ‘Dinner for One’ (also known as ‘Der 90. Geburtstag) at least once! As strange as it may seem, it is a German Silvester tradition to watch this British cabaret sketch from the 1920s. Even though this play is well known in Germany and other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. German TV stations broadcast the 1963 filming in Hamburg of the sketch on Silvester which you can watch here.

Wir wünschen Euch einen guten Rutsch ins Jahr 2018!

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4. Advent – Frohe Weihnachten!

… dann vier, dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.

Adventskranz 4. Advent

Christmas Eve – in Australia this means one more sleep until children can open their presents and see what Santa Claus brought them, but this evening is celebrated a little differently in Germany!

Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in Germany, therefore many people leave work earlier and travel to spend Christmas Eve with their families – in the afternoon the Christmas tree is decorated (if it hasn’t been already) and in the early evening most families attend church. After families return home from church, it is time to open presents (Santa Claus or the Christ Child, depending on faith, goes to people’s houses during the church service to leave presents under the tree) and have a big family dinner.

The next day, December 25th, is fairly similar to Australia – aside from the weather and the food eaten! Most people spend the day with their families, eating and drinking. Typical food for Christmas Day in Germany is a roast goose or duck, red cabbage and boiled potatoes or potato dumplings. In the afternoon people usually enjoy sweet treats, such as Plätzchen (biscuits), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Pfeffernüsse (gingerbread covered in sugar frosting), Stollen (a rich bread filled with marzipan and dried fruits) and Spekulatius (a type of biscuit flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg). As the weather in Germany is much colder than in Australia, people enjoy these richer foods – unlike Australia where many people enjoy a big seafood lunch on Christmas day!

From our Oktoberfest family to yours – wir wünschen Euch frohe Weihnachten (we wish you a merry Christmas)!

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3. Advent – The Adventskranz (Advent Wreath)

… dann drei…

Let’s talk about Advent candles. Back in the 1700s it was popular to burn down 24 little candles – one a day – to count down the days throughout December. It was also tradition for churches throughout Europe to display a green wreath with four big candles in it. The first candle was lit on the first Advent, the first and second candles were lit on the second Advent, the first, second and third candles were lit on the third Advent, and all four candles were lit on the fourth Advent. These four candles each had a separate meaning:

  1. The first candle represents hope: it is the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding everyone that Jesus is coming
  2. The second candle represents faith: is the “Bethlehem Candle” reminding everyone of Mary and Joseph’s long journey to Bethlehem
  3. The third candle represents joy: is the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding everyone of the joy which would be brought by Jesus’ birth
  4. The fourth candle represents peace: is the “Angel’s Candle” reminding everyone of the angels’ message: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

The wreaths often featured a fifth candle in the middle or separately which is lit on Christmas Day to represent the coming of Jesus – the light of the world. In Germany this fifth candle is lit on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve).

Whilst this tradition originated in churches, many German households have their own Advent Wreath. It is, as is tradition, a green wreath, often decorated with ribbons, coloured pinecones (such as silver or gold), dried fruit and holly leaves. Families and friends often gather on the Sundays leading up to Christmas and enjoy eating cake and drinking coffee or hot chocolate whilst watching the candles on the Advent wreath burn.

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2. Advent – The Adventskalender (Advent Calendar)

… dann zwei…

2. Advent

One of our favourite Advent traditions is the Advent calendar. There are different calendars used around the world, although these days the most popular ones are cardboard calendars with 24 doors. One door is opened every day in December leading up to Christmas. Behind each door is a picture and often a Christmas-themed chocolate, such as a chocolate Christmas tree or Santa Claus.

In the early 1800s it was common to mark 24 chalk lines on your door and rub off one every day leading up to Christmas. It was around 50 years later that the first paper calendars were made, but they didn’t soar in popularity until the early 1900s. Although there is much debate about where in the world these paper calendars first appeared, one thing is certain – the first ones were mass-produced in Germany in the early 1900s (although production stopped during World War II due to a shortage of cardboard).

Initially, these cardboard calendars featured pictures from the Christmas story. Later, calendars filled with small toys and chocolate were introduced. The first calendar with chocolate in it was produced in 1958, although they didn’t become popular with the masses until the 1980s.

Today, there are many types of Advent calendars. One particularly popular trend in Germany is using a wreath of fir with 24 boxes or bags hanging from it: each bag or box is filled with a little gift. Advent calendars have become a big trend, with calendars available featuring different products such as perfume, makeup, chocolate, beauty products, toys – you can even get an Advent calendar for you dog or cat filled with treats for them!

Did you know…? The sparkly diamond advent calendar below has gone down in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most expensive Advent calendar in the world – valued at €2.5m. It was created by a Belgian jeweller, featuring jewellery designed by Frankfurt-based jeweller Biegel Schmuckdesign.

Wishing you all a lovely third Advent.

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Happy Nikolaustag

On the evening of the 5th of December, children (and some adults!) in Germany put their shoe or boot out at night (their Nikolausstiefel). When they wake up the next morning their shoe or boot is filled with treats – usually chocolate, fruits and nuts, and sometimes small toys.

… But what is the story behind this?

The 6th of December is a day where Saint Nikolaus is celebrated. St. Nikolaus is the one who fills the children’s boots with gifts and sweets overnight, although if the children have been naughty, rather than nice, they may find a Rute (a stick) in their boot.

Saint Nikolaus, born Nikolaus of Myra, lived in Turkey around the year 270 to sometime in the mid-300s. There are few documented facts about his life, and most of the stories about it are legends that have been passed on from generation to generation. In general, these legends all told of one thing: tales of how Saint Nikolaus gave the poor his wealth.

One story says that Nikolaus’ parents died when he was very young, and he inherited gold, silver, precious gems, palaces and big properties, as well as many animals, such as sheep, horses and donkeys. However, he wasn’t happy. One day he left the palace and walked down the street where he saw a beggar, Nikolaus went to reach into his pocket to give him something, but realised that his rich clothing didn’t have any pockets. So Nikolaus took off his biggest gold chain and ring and gave it to the beggar. He returned back to the palace later that day feeling happy for the first time in a long time and immediately requested that all of his clothes be fitted with large pockets. The next day he filled up his large pockets with nuts, apples and mandarins and walked through the streets to distribute these to the poor. Again, he returned home joyful. So he continued doing this for many days. A few years later when he was a teenager he decided to leave the palace behind and ride throughout the whole country and give his wealth to the poor. He eventually returned to Myra after giving away most of his wealth, but every year on his birthday, the 6th of December, he would ride through the street and give mandarins, apples, nuts and cake to the poor.

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1. Advent: Advent – The Origins

Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt…

Adventskranz 1. Advent

Advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas and is celebrated on the four Sundays.

Did you know…? Advent means ‘Coming’ in Latin. The Advent period is the ‘coming’ of Jesus into the world.

Nobody really knows where Advent first came from, but it dates back to at least 567 when monks were ordered to fast in the period leading up to Christmas. Some people (very few) keep up this tradition and fast during these four weeks in order to prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

In medieval times in some parts of England, there were early forms of nativity scenes, often referred to as ‘advent images’ which were often displayed in small wooden boxes – they generally featured two small dolls: one representing Mary and one representing the baby Jesus. These boxes were often decorated with flowers and ribbons and were carried from door to door. It was actually considered as unlucky if you hadn’t seen one of these boxes before Christmas Eve!

Nowadays, there are several ways in which Advent is counted down, but the most common way is a calendar or candles… but more about those in the next two weeks!

We wish you all a wonderful first Advent.

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Sankt Martin

Tomorrow, on the 11th of November, children in every city and town in Germany will wander through the dark streets with lanterns (which they often made themselves at school) and sing songs. These small parades are often led by a man in a roman uniform riding a horse. The parade usually ends somewhere with a bonfire and the children are given a treat.

Sounds good, right? But why do they do this?

St Martin’s Day is a celebration of a roman soldier – der Heilige Martin von Tours (the holy Martin from Tours). St. Martin lived from 316 to 397 BC and was later promoted to the third bishop of Tours. The most famous legend about St. Martin tells of a cold winter’s day when he was riding through the streets and saw a homeless man shivering. St. Martin took his coat and cut it in half, giving the homeless man one half and saving him from freezing to death. This is who we remember on this special day.

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