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A Unique German Way To Say It’s Snowing Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Folklore, History, Language, Literature, Traditions

Guten Tag! Is it snowing where you live? For me, there’s nothing better than that moment of seeing snow outside and exclaiming Es schneit! to whoever will listen. Today I’d like to give you a very different way of saying ‘It’s snowing’ in German.

Nahaufnahme vom Schnee

‘Nahaufnahme vom Schnee’ by Marco Verch on flickr.com under a CC license (CC by 2.0)

Frau Holle schüttelt ihre Betten aus

A unique way of saying It’s snowing is the phrase ‘Frau Holle schüttelt ihre Betten aus’ – Frau Holle is shaking out her bedsheets. This is a phrase from Hessen, Germany, specifically. But who is Frau Holle, and what do her bedsheets have to do with snow?

Frau Holle is the title of a children’s fairytale written by the famous Brüder Grimm (Grimm Brothers). Published in 1812 in the first volume of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), Frau Holle is the story of a girl who lives with her evil stepmother. The stepmother forces her to sit outside by the well each day and spin. One day, she pricks her finger on the spindle and it falls into the well. She leaps into the well after it, fearing she will be punished, and finds herself in a meadow. There she meets an old lady – Frau Holle – who tells her she can stay with her as long as she helps with the housework – and one thing, in particular:

Du mußt nur Acht geben, daß du mein Bett gut machst und es fleißig aufschüttelst, daß die Federn fliegen, dann schneit es in der Welt.’ source

But you must make sure you make my bed properly and shake it out thoroughly, so that the feathers fly – then it will snow the world over.’

The girl agreed, and so the story goes on in typical fairytale fashion (the girl is rewarded for her hard work, while the stepmother’s biological daughter tries the same thing, but is punished for her laziness).

This story actually began not as a figment of the Grimm brothers’ imagination, but as a local legend told to Wilhelm Grimm by his future wife. That is why today, when it snows, people in Hessen say Frau Holle schüttelt ihre Betten aus.

Did you know this phrase? Do you have any expressions like this in your part of the world? 🙂

Frau Holle - Mauro Breda.jpg

Frau Holle.

By Mauro Breda – Own work, Public Domain, Link

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Peter Haney:

    Danke für die Nachricht.

  2. Dot:

    What a great saying!
    I live in Yorkshire, UK. When there was a thunderstorm over the Yorkshire town of Ilkley, parents used to tell their children that the thunder was the giant Rombald, running over the famous Ilkley Moor.
    I don’t know if they still do!

    • Constanze:

      @Dot That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing, Dot. 😀

  3. Marie:

    I did a project back in my high school German class on this fairytale, and when I studied in Hessen, I heard this phrase, as well. I’ve also read in several books that Frau Holle is tied to a Germanic weather goddess whose feast day falls on Christmas. This is where the wish for a white Christmas originates. It was forbidden to use spinning wheels and anything resembling a spinning wheel on this day.

  4. Joseph T. Madawela:

    beautiful

  5. Joseph T. Madawela:

    beautiful

  6. Katarina:

    It’s very good.
    Thanks.