The top fall feasts celebrated in Germany

Culture

Giving thanks for food

Harvest celebrations abound in Germany. While the "Erntedankfest" (Harvest Thanksgiving) is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of October, a number of festivities — everything from pumpkin to wine-tasting festivals — precede it throughout September. Pumpkin patches and cornfield mazes have also become popular on farms across Germany at this time.

Culture

German reunification

What would German history, and world history for that matter, be without the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989? The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (shown here) stands for both the history before the fall, and the liberty that resulted thereafter. German reunification, however, did not become official until nearly one year later — on October 3, 1990.

Culture

German Unity Day

Since then, October 3 has been celebrated as "German Unity Day." Politicians give speeches, while cities host concerts and fireworks. Some Germans, however, ignore the political meaning of the public holiday — relishing instead the "freedom" of sleeping in. Recent years have seen demonstrations by the far right in cities such as Dresden, calling for "the stop of the Islamization of Germany."

Culture

Halloween for adults

Halloween is actually a Celtic celebration dating back centuries. October 31 marked for the Celts the end of summer and beginning of the dark season. It was believed that the boundary between the living and the dead disappeared. People donned scary masks to drive away evil spirits. Celebrating Halloween has gained popularity in Germany; supermodel Heidi Klum's parties are legendary (photo).

Culture

Halloween for kids

While grown-up have bonfires and throw parties, children go to parks and zoos, where Halloween decorations abound, like here in "Europa Park," Germany's biggest amusement park. Kids also go door-to-door collecting sweets, like they do in the US.

Culture

All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day, "Allerheiligen" in German, is a Christian festival celebrated on November 1 – originally to honor saints. It is actually part of the "Allhallowtide" triduum, three days of festivities that includes Halloween (All Saints' Eve), All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day on November 2. In Germany, the November 1 national holiday is a day to remember the deceased with candles in cemeteries.

Culture

St. Martin's Day

November 11 is St. Martin's Day, when children parade through the streets with lanterns singing songs. It culminates in a bonfire, where a man dressed in a red cape arrives on horseback and gives rolls to children. He is the embodiment of Saint Martin of Tours, a fourth century European bishop. Legend has it that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm.

Culture

Gänsegedichte or "Goose Poems"

St. Martin's Day is also a day to eat a goose dinner together. Table etiquette includes reciting "Gänsegedichte," or poems about geese. It may seem like a luxurious way of celebrating a day about giving to the poor, but legend has it that Martin hid away in a goose stall when he heard of his being named a bishop — though he was discovered when the geese gave him away with all their chatter.

Culture

Barbarazweige or "Barbara Branches"

"Barbara branches" are usually cherry tree or other fruit tree twigs with blossoms which are cut on December 4 — St. Barbara Day — and placed in a vase. They usually open up by Christmas. Barbara was an early Christian Greek saint and martyr, and December 4 marks the day of her martyrdom.

Culture

St. Nicholas Day

What would the end of fall be without the arrival of Santa Claus down the chimney? The German version is St. Nicholas, and he arrives on December 6. Dressed in a red suit with white, he brings sweets to good children, and bits of coal to those who have been naughty. St. Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop who helped the needy, and is still a reminder of the need to assist those who are suffering.

Germany is full of traditions celebrated throughout the year, but autumn has its own special brand of festivities celebrating harvest, light, liberty and luck to warm up a season heading into darkness.

Whether it's fireworks on New Year's Eve, not saying "Happy Birthday" before one's actual birthday, dancing around the May pole on May Day, or celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, Germany has its own unique take on traditions, superstitions and simply throwing a party.

Even in modern, technicized 2018, many traditions and customs still center around the seasons. Spring is heralded as the season of new beginnings; summer is cherished as time off work and school and a chance to experience; Christmastime will make any small kid's eyes light up – while fall traditions often look to the outdoors for inspiration.

The changing light outside plays a big role in those autumn traditions, with candles and lanterns taking center stage. Apple festivals celebrate the bounty of a fruit harvest, but also mark the end of a season full of sunlight.

Fall in Germany also means a look back at significant political events that changed modern German history forever.

Take a look at our picture galleries to get a glimpse of autumn in Germany.

Culture

Parading with paper lanterns in November

Every year around November 11, German families with young children celebrate St. Martin's Day by singing songs and parading outside with paper lanterns that they've prepared in school or pre-school. The holiday is named after St. Martin of Tours, who is said to have shared his cloak with a beggar during a storm. A St. Martin figure on a horse often accompanies the parades.

Culture

Celebrating the opening of Carnival

On the same day as St. Martin's - more precisely, on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11 a.m. - Germany's three carnival "strongholds" of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Mainz celebrate the opening of "Karneval" by coming together in the city center wearing costumes. The carnival season then officially ends on Ash Wednesday the following year. In 2017, that will be March 1.

Culture

Playing with chestnuts

Hidden in prickly shells are smooth brown chestnuts like these. Children collect non-edible ones they find in parks in the fall. They can be turned into necklaces or little animal figures by assembling them with toothpicks. But be careful! If you step on them, it can hurt.

Culture

Mushroom picking

This is probably one of the most delicious perks of the fall. With some luck, you can find "Steinpilze," which is a variety of porcini mushroom. "Maronen-Röhrling," known in English as the bay bolete, are even more common. Though some Germans are true mushroom experts, these two varieties are quite easy to recognize, making it easy for everyone to distinguish them from the toxic ones.

Culture

Enjoying the leaves

A walk in the woods to admire the colorful autumn leaves is a typical Sunday afternoon activity in Germany. In the city, they pile up on the sidewalk, waiting to be swept away by city employees. As tempting as it might be for children to run through them, they quickly need to learn that they often hide other piles - of dog poop.

Culture

Going to the spa

Although many thermal baths are open all year, it is definitely satisfying to experience the contrasts in temperatures when it gets cold outside by heading to a "Therme." Germans take their spa culture very seriously. Many foreigners are initially surprised to discover that being naked is a requirement in some areas of a spa - so it's important to bring a towel to sit on the sauna benches.

Culture

Getting the wool clothes out

Many German parents prefer to cover their babies with organic wool from head to toe; many respectable adults also wear merino wool long johns. The clothes are quite expensive, but these natural, ecological and sustainable products are considered worth the investment. However, without a disciplined storage ritual over the summer, woolens can also disappear surprisingly quickly - munched by moths.

Culture

Turning up the heat

As it gets cold, Germans heat their homes. Although most apartments are heated with gas, there are still older houses that need to be heated with coal. That used to be a lot more frequent 10 years ago - now the smell of coal in the air automatically brings a feeling of nostalgia. Winter is coming, just like in the good old days.

Culture

Opening up the windows while heating

"Stoßlüften" is a concept that's so German, it doesn't have a direct translation in English. It refers to the fact that people open the windows completely for a few minutes to air out the apartment, even when it's very cold and the heaters are on. It is considered a way to avoid mold in humid houses. Some overdo it, turning those "few minutes" into several hours.

Culture

Stocking up on Advent calendars

Although these special calendars are used to count the last 24 days before Christmas, for unknown reasons, German supermarkets put loads of them on sale in October. It can only be assumed that quite a few people cheat and eat them whenever - or stock up on them in case some catastrophe would prevent them from buying them a few days before Advent actually starts.

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