…commemorates St. Martin of Tours, who according to legend cut his cloak in half and shared it with a beggar to prevent him from freezing to death. On November 11, children in Germany traditionally wander the streets with colorful lanterns. And many grown-ups in German-speaking regions join in on the festivities by enjoying a meal of Martin's goose.
Four weeks before Christmas, the Christmas markets open across Germany. The best known one is in Nuremberg. Apart from mulled wine called 'Glühwein,' visitors can enjoy many culinary delights, such as 'Stollen,' a Yule time fruit loaf or gingerbread treats of all varieties.
The start of a new year is the perfect time for thinking back and looking ahead. Some like to start the year by reading horoscopes - but Germans have a different New Year's tradition. It involves melting lead over a candle and then pouring it into cold water. The lead's resulting shape is then interpreted as a sign of things to come.
Roses, balloons, perfume, chocolates: Valentine's Day these days has become a celebration of consumerism. But the tradition dates back to St. Valentine, a bishop in Roman times. The marriage ceremonies he conducted were thought to have been blessed.
When the first keg of stout in Munich's Nockherberg is opened each March, people traditionally use the occasion to poke fun at the political elite. These days the "Derblecken," a local term for poking fun at, is performed by cabaret artist Luise Kinseher in the role of "Bavaria." In years past, her male predecessors used to dress up as a monk named Brother Barnabas to perform the Derblecken.
With cheers of "Alaaf" and "Helau," carnival is celebrated in the Rhineland. In southern Germany, the revelry goes by the name of "Fasching." People in costumes wander the streets ahead of Lent, and sweets are thrown to visitors from festively decorated floats. What is this organized silliness all about? Originally it was a tradition intended to drive out the winter.
Colorfully decorated eggs, sweet cake in the shape of lambs or Easter bunnies - all these are part of traditional Easter celebrations in Germany. The religious celebration marking the resurrection of Christ is accompanied by pagan symbols - chicks, small bunny rabbits and lambs all symbolize fertility.
Mother's Day, which is celebrated in Germany on the second Sunday in May, was initiated by American women's rights campaigner Anna Jarvis. To honor her mother, who died in 1905, she called for a day of celebration for all mothers. In Germany, this tradition dates back to 1923.
In the South, blue and white decorated Maypoles are stolen overnight from nearby villages in order to play tricks on rival communities. In central Germany, the "May tree" is seen as a love declaration: Silver birches decorated with colorful ribbons are placed outside girls' windows - or boys' windows in leap years. And to ensure credit goes where credit is due, a name tag is attached to the tree.
The "Wiesn" in Munich are home to the world's largest beer festival. The Oktoberfest attracts some seven million visitors to Bavaria, and nearly eight million liters of beer are served during the sixteen days. Cheers!
German traditions: in Germany, like anywhere else, festivities are marked with regional customs and rites. Join us on a tour of these annual celebrations.