Most of you probably know, but the American Thanksgiving tradition does not exist in Germany, unless you count US Americans living here.
Well, it’s not entirely true. We do have our own Thanksgiving which is called Erntedankfest.
Ernte = harvest
Dank = thanks
Fest = festival, celebration
It is a Catholic holiday that had various dates since the 3rd century, due to harvest happening in different months depending on the climate you’re in. The German Episcopal Conference put it on the first Sunday of October but didn’t force the communes to celebrate it on that day, so while it is usually celebrated in some way, it never became an official part of the lithurgy. In some places it just dictates the theme of the weekly mass, maybe the kids in kindergarden learn something about it that week or have a little celebration and in some places there are – sometimes massive – processions.
And that’s about it. What we do have is Black Friday. Sort of. There’s no actually tradition for this, it’s just that businesses in Germany exploiting the fact that people can be goaded into into spending money by declaring an arbitrary sales day. People see it in US TV shows and on the internet anyway, so why not take advantage on it?
Something similar that is a tradition is socalled Mantelsonntag. This translates to cloak Sunday. Historically the Sunday before All Hallows people would go into town to get a new cloak for the winter. Today this became an arbitrary reason to open shops on Sundays in cities with a predominant Catholic population.1
I don’t want to dwell on commercialism with this lesson, so here’s a few funny words or figures of speech that might entertain you.
The German word for a lucky devil. someone who is always lucky or just got hit by an insane stroke of luck, like winning the lottery, catching a spectacular spouse or dodging certain death by pure luck is called a Glückspilz. A luck-mushroom.
That probably comes from the poisonous Fliegenpilz (fly agaric) being a symbol for luck.
As well as a four leaf clover or vierblättriges Kleeblatt, a pig (Schwein) or a chimney sweep (Schornsteinfeger). The latter supposedly will bring luck if kissed. Depending on who is doing the kissing and what the sweep looks like, it’s either a self-fulfilling prophecy or maybe even the sweep being the lucky one. Also don’t go around calling people Glücksschwein. It’s bad luck. You might get a punch to the face for that.
A jester or prankster, someone who constantly plays pranks or makes jokes is a Spaßvogel. A Jestbird.
A favorite among many non-Germans is the word Kabelsalat, translating to cable salad. A tangled mess of cables in a drawer, box or behind your hifi system. There’s no specific dressing recommendation for it.
Now the final piece. Ever had one situations where two people say or do the exact same thing in an instant? Or when you and a friend text each other at the same time asking to hang out? Or you make the same joke, have the same idea or come to the same conclusion at the same time?
It happens. Great minds often think alike. You’d think there’s a literal translation for that in German, but there’s not.
The German expression for that is zwei Dumme ein Gedanke.
Dumm meaning stupid you might think it’s not exactly a compliment but in that case it is often used in an endearing way. Gedanke is the German word for a thought.
So the best impromptu translation would probably be two fools, one idea.
Have a nice Saturday, folks!Footnotes
- All Hallows being a Catholic holiday [↩]