German Word of the Day: die Weihnachtsgurke (Christmas Pickle)

A very long time ago, the Christmas tree was originally decorated with nuts and fruits. Then came the shiny stuff (Lametta, Weihnachtskugeln, Sterne).

Another supposedly German tradition says to hang a pickle onto the tree. Yes, a pickle. The lucky finder will get an extra present. The first time I heard of this tradition was about 10 years ago. It could be an American tradition with German roots.

I had hidden our pickle so well (out of sight, out of mind), I completely forgot to have my family search for it on Christmas Eve.

Weihnachtsgurke (Christmas Pickle)

Quotes for Teachers

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

~Jacques Barzun

apples

A German Christmas Tradition – Barbarazweige

While growing up in a small village in northern Bavaria, I always saw my mom putting Barbarazweige on top of the kitchen cabinet in early December. These otherwise brown barren twigs would come into full bloom by Christmas.

Traditionally, these twigs are cut on 4 December, also known as St. Barbara Day (Catholic church). After cutting, they should experience a slight frost by either putting them in the fridge or leaving them outside overnight. Then put them in warm water for the first night. This will cause them to bloom later as the change from frosty temperature to a warm room makes it seem like spring is coming.

After the first night of warm water, fresh cold water should be given every three days.

Barbarazweige, a German Christmas tradition

Barbarazweige, a German Christmas tradition

Short list of trees or bush which are best:

Kirsche/cherry    Apfel/apple    Forsythien/forsythia    Haselnuss/hazelnut    Zierjohannisbeer/currant    Birke/birch   Weide/willow   Schlehe/blackthorn   Goldregen/laburnum    Ginster/broom (gorse)

Origin

This tradition is based on St. Barbara (Heilige Barbara), a shopkeeper’s daughter, who was put in jail. On her way there, her dress got caught on a cherry twig. While she was in her jail cell, she watered the little twig every day. On the day of her execution, the twig blossomed.

Blossoming Twigs bring Good Fortune

Bringing Barbarazweige to blossom is an old, but almost forgotten Christmas tradition. If everything is timed properly, the blossoms come to full bloom at Christmas and this means good fortune for the coming year, and shriveled ones brings back luck.

In the old days, a young woman would write her suitors’ names on pieces of paper and hang them onto the twigs. The one, whose twig blossomed first, should be the one chosen for marriage.

This tradition is mostly forgotten. Yesterday morning, I called my neighbor, a nice elderly woman in her late 70s, and asked her for some Barbarazweige from her garden. She said I was welcome to cut some, but she was not sure if they had such a tree or bush named Barbara. I did not bother to explain this tradition over the phone, but went right over to her garden.

I believe I have twigs from an apple tree, but we shall see.

German Lesson: Schnapszahl

The German term Schnapszahl (schnapps number) is a number made up of identical digits. We often see this as a good-luck charm, such as in license-plates, dates, the bill at the cash-register, rolling the dice in parlor games, etc.

What is a Schnapszahl? At the supermarket, if your bill is 5,55, you might wonder if it is your lucky day and then run off to play the lottery.

But the real meaning behind the schnapps and number probably stems from alcohol, in this case obviously the schnapps. We might see double numbers, when our alcohol intake has been too much. Hence, Schnapszahl. Too much schnaps, double or even triple the number.
In games, such as darts and dice, if a player gets a Schnapszahl, he/she might have to buy a round of schnapps.

We’ve got half a Schnapszahl at the moment with 2211 Likes. We’re getting there.

Post by Learn German.

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