Monday, November 25, 2013

Celebrating Thanksgiving, German-style

Every year, families and friends gather together to celebrate the year with a bountiful feast. While Americans are familiar with the long-held traditions and folklore of Thanksgiving, many believe that Thanksgiving is solely an American holiday. In fact, many countries and cultures celebrate similar traditions. As we prepare this week for bellies full of food and reflect on the things for which we can be thankful, Historic Wagner Farm wanted to share its roots with you through the German tradition of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in Germany is known as Erntedankfest and has long been practiced in rural areas. Unlike Thanksgiving, Erntedankfest is not recognized as a German national holiday, but rather a religious celebration. Church services and religious festivals are held throughout the day to celebrate and give thanks for the year's bountiful harvest.

Many Erntedankfest traditions revolve around the harvest crops, grains and fruits. Families bring baskets full of food to the morning church service as a gift and sometimes include products considered to have a "special closeness to nature" such as flour, wine or honey.

In many areas, families make big wreaths or harvest crowns out of woven grain and ribbon, and hang them on doors or in the village marketplace. Smaller wreaths and crowns are often placed on the roofs of farm buildings and barns in rural areas. While the American tradition of eating turkey at the harvest feast has become popular in Germany, many families also gather together for a feast of roasted chicken or rooster.

Because Erntedankfest is not a national holiday in Germany, many regions celebrate this feast on different days. However, acknowledgement by the German Catholic church in 1972 stated the holiday should occur on the first Sunday in October.

So as you sit down with your family and friends to celebrate and tell stories of harvest traditions of the past, remember, too, that people from all over the world share in celebrating the success of a good harvest and look to the long winter ahead. Some of those people may have already enjoyed their Thanksgiving feast nearly two months ago!

Photos by Wilfried Dieckmann. Click here for more photos of the 2010 Erntedank parade in Berau, Germany.