October 2, 2022
Happy Thanksgiving - German Style!
Long ago, in a land far away from pilgrims and the Thanksgiving story we all know so well, a whole lot of Germans gave thanks…. In October!
This is the story of the Erntedankfest (“harvest thanksgiving festival”)
Erntedankfest, The ancient Thanksgiving day complete with Parades and pumpkins!
Typically celebrated in rural areas, a church service would be followed by a procession through the streets. Elaborately dressed townsfolk would parade through the center of town with pumpkins, fruit and flags. Music was always a staple part of these celebrations as was a feast!
In some parts, a ‘Harvest Queen’ would be crowned for the day and even still, some towns would hold an additional lantern parade in the evening with bonfires and even fireworks!
The ‘Harvest Crown’ (Erntekrone) is a common decoration in towns and churches at this time of year. Typically made from wheat and grain, it symbolises a good harvest. Other common decorations will be very familiar to you all, particularly the abundance of pumpkins in every shape and size.
In the lead up to the celebrations, many parts of Germany also hold events, like one of the world’s largest pumpkin festivals in Ludwigsburg where sculptures can come in the form of sand or vegetable. It is an amazing place to visit in the fall, if you ever get the chance…
Use the arrows below to take a look at some photos from this year's pumpkin festival...
Similar but different.
The German celebration does have some similar threads to what we know and love about Thanksgiving but it isn’t quite the same. Having lived in both countries for both kinds of Thanksgiving, the German version is definitely NOT as grand or as family-focused as our American holiday. While there is a focus on abundance, food and drink for some, most Germans do not specifically celebrate this holiday. There is no giant feast, no marshmallow covered yams and definitely no Black Friday sales.
In more recent times, Erntedankfest now coincides with German Unity Day. It is a major public holiday celebrating the reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now concerts, fireworks and feasts are more widespread than ever before with this national holiday falling on October 3rd.
If you need an excuse back home in the USA to celebrate, Erntedankfest is always celebrated on the first Sunday in October. This means you can celebrate German Thanksgiving in October and then do it all again in November! (another slice of pumpkin pie anyone?)
If you happen to be in Germany at any time in fall, one thing is pretty special. Almost every restaurant worth its salt will have a special ‘Herbst’ (Autumn) menu where Kurbis (Pumpkin) and Pute (Turkey) are staples. Be warned though, Germany (like many other parts of the world) eat pumpkin as a vegetable not a dessert…
German Thanksgiving comes after Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is celebrated in Bavaria in September. It is a festival that celebrates the coming of the harvest in October (hence the name). For most Germans it is a non-event as it is really only celebrated in one state.
Erntedankfest (German Thanksgiving) is what comes after, it is a way to give thanks for food, family and everything the year has given us.
Visiting Germany in Fall
We know that nothing really beats a New England Fall, but fall with picturesque villages and castles... Well that's pretty special also.
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Germany, with fewer crowds and wonderful Fall hues, definitely worth adding to your bucket list!
Thanks for Reading
We hope that you have enjoyed this little peak into some German traditions. Here at the German Christmas Shop, we love sharing a few fun facts about the land that makes our gorgeous decorations.
As a family run business, we are so thankful to be part of a larger story, preserving traditional European craftsmanship in a world where a lot of things seem to be mass-produced and cheaply made. The quality of our items, the work of our artisans comes from having such a rich history and tradition behind them.
Written by Ronnie
Just someone who loves the way we all celebrate the Holidays and create memories together...