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History, Vocabulary and Traditions around Entedankfest (Thanksgiving) in Germany

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/24/2013

Learn about the background of Erntedankfest, Germany's Thanksgiving. We look at traditions in rural areas and the appropriate vocabulary in German.

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    Thanksgiving in Germany, or Erntedankfest, has a long tradition, particularly in rural areas. It’s a celebration to give thanks for the successful collection of the harvest which guarantees another year without starvation. While in the United States, Thanksgiving is an important secular holiday, including a weekend, with the emphasis on family get-togethers and the consumption of a turkey as the central celebration, Erntedankfest in Germany is a religious occasion. Church services dominate the day, and it’s a religious festival equally celebrated by Catholics and Protestants. Well known is the Erntedankgottesdientin Berlin, Germany’s capital,with three services during the day. Erntedankfest is usually celebrated on the first Sunday in October.

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    Erntedankfest traditions in Germany revolve around harvest and grain. The first church service is usually held at 10.00 am; and huge straw baskets, filled with grain, fruit, potatoes, etc., are carried to the church. The baskets are blessed and later distributed to the poor.

    In rural areas, Erntekränze, big wreaths made from grain, are hung on doors or, Erntekronen, huge crowns, skilfully woven from grain and decorated with ribbons, are erected in the marketplace of smaller towns and villages. Smaller crowns are also often put on the roofs of farm buildings and barns. The crowns are carried in Umzügen (parades) at the end of a church service.

    In the evening there are Laternenumzüge, or lantern parades in which children participate and go from house to house, much as they do on St. Martin’s Day in November.

    The traditional American turkey has become popular in Germany, too. Apart from turkey, a chicken or kapaun ( rooster), similarly roasted and stuffed, is consumed. A special Thanksgiving pastry is Mohnstriezel, a sweet bread sprinkled with poppy seeds which originates in Austria.

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    Vocabulary around Erntedankfest

    Erntedankfest (n) – Thanksgiving

    Ernte (f) – harvest

    Ernte einbringen – to harvest

    Scheune (f) – barn

    Bauernhof (m) – farm

    Bauer (m) – farmer

    Korn (n) – grain

    Weizen (m) – wheat

    Gerste (f) – barley

    Hafer (m)- oats

    Mohn (m) – poppy

    Gottesdienst (m) – church service

    Segnen – to bless

    Pfarrer (m) – clergyman, priest

    Erntekrone (f) – harvest crown

    Erntekranz (m) – harvest wreath

    Bänder (f) – ribbons

    Girlande (f) – garland

    Umzug (m) – parade

    Truthahn (m) – turkey

    Masthuhn (n) – chicken

    Kapaun (m) – rooster

    Feiern – to celebrate

    Religion (f) – religion

    Religiös – religious

    Festmahl (n) – celebration meal

    Brot (n) – bread

    Mohnstriezel – special sweet bread with poppy seeds

    Eine Krone flechten – to weave a crown

    Aufschneiden- to carve

    Tranchiermesser (n) – carving knife

    Familie (f)– family

    Laterne (f) – lantern

    Kerze (f) – candle

    Kinder (f) – children

    Laternenumzug (m) – lantern parade