German Terms for Holiday: Urlaub, Reise, Kurzreise, Wochenendausflug, Tagesausflug

When your average German goes on summer holidays, it is usually for a minimum of one week, and can last up to four weeks.

As one of my friends once stated, ‘Anything less than three weeks is not good for relaxing!’ or ‘Weniger als drei Wochen lohnt sich nicht!’ (less than three weeks isn’t worth it).

An Asian friend told me in German, she would be going on a holiday “Wir fahren in Urlaub”. When I asked her about it in more detail, it turned out to be a one-day trip…

Well, this holiday question depends on your cultural and social background. The Americans I knew while working in the States usually took a one-week holiday. The Asians I know also take a week off in the summer. So, in regards to our different perception of what a holiday is, we need to break it down the German way.

Urlaub (holiday): anywhere from one to four weeks

Kurzurlaub (short holiday): three to five days

Städtereise (city trip): three or four days to a European capital city

Reise am langen Wochenende (long weekend trip): weekend with a public holiday either on Friday or Monday

Wochenendausflug (weekend trip): Saturday and Sunday

Tagesausflug (day trip): one day only

When Germans have so many paid vacation days (30 days per year) and 13 public holidays to add to it, of course the vocabulary gets bigger and more detailed.

When a German tells you he’s going on holiday, he really means it. ūüôā

“Have a good trip!” in German: Gute Reise!

Biarritz, France

Taken on our two-week summer holiday in Biarritz in 2012.

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.

English Study Book Recommendations

I was asked  to compile a list of recommended English study books for the summer break for a student of mine. I might as well share it with everyone. This list is geared at the 11th/12th grade of the local Gymnasium ( high school), where English is taught as a foreign language, but it also applies to any high school student learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL). The recommended books on writing are an integral part in any library Рincluding the one of a native speaker of English.

For idioms:

Dictionary of Idioms (Collins Cobuild)

For vocabulary:

The Vocabulary Builder: The Practically Painless Way to a Larger Vocabulary (Study Smart Series)

Vocabulary for TOEFL iBT

Writing skills:

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing (Mentor)

The Elements of Style

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Most of these books are on my shelf – or my husband’s, for that matter.

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