German Language Blog

Erntedankfest: German Thanksgiving Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Culture, Food, Holidays, Language, Traditions

In a recent post I mentioned some events that take place in Germany in Autumn. Today I’d like to tell you a little more about one of them, namely Erntedankfest – the “German Thanksgiving”.


Erntedank — Photo by Norbert Staudt on under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

First, the breakdown of the word. ‘Ernte’ means harvest, while ‘Dank’ comes from ‘Danke’, meaning thank you, and ‘Fest’ is German for festival or celebration. The word Erntedankfest therefore translates to ‘Harvest thank festival’. So Erntedankfest is a harvest festival where you express thanks for the food you have received throughout the year!

If you live in the USA, this will sound very similar to Thanksgiving. In the USA, Thanksgiving has become a secular holiday centred around food and family get-togethers – but in Germany it is still a rather religious occasion, centred around church services and giving thanks for the land-grown vegetation – the maize, corn, fruit and vegetables – that have fed everyone for another year.

Erntedankfest is usually celebrated on the first Sunday in October, though this date can vary from region to region.


Photo by jeurgen-tesch on under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

Typically, the day includes a church service, a procession, the presenting of an Erntekrone (harvest crown), then food, drink and music, and an evening torchlight procession through the town. Church altars are decorated with wreaths, flowers and fruit, and Blasmusik (music played with brass/wind instruments) is played at these services and during the processions.

Some towns and cities hold farmers’ markets selling fresh produce, and bring along their tractors or horses for the local people to see. It is basically a celebration of the land and of all things agricultural! There are also often lots of activities for kids at these Erntedankfest celebrations, so they are well worth getting involved with if you happen to be in Germany around late September/early October.

Erntedankfest-das größte im Norden_mfw14_062261w

Erntedankfest procession with Blasmusik. Photo: madle-fotowelt on under a CC license (CC BY-ND 2.0)

You can find a very typical, traditional Erntedankfest held at the church Evangelisches Johannesstift in Berlin.

There is a traditional Erntedankfest Lied (song) called “Wir pflügen und wir streuen” (‘We plough and we scatter’), often sung by choirs at these church services. Here it is:

 Have you ever experienced Erntedankfest in Germany? Let me know in the comments!


Related vocabulary:

Agriculture – die Landwirtschaft

To plough – pflügen

Tractor – der Traktor

Horse – das Pferd

Harvest crown – die Erntekrone

Blessing – der Segen

Bread – das Brot

Turkey – der Truthahn

Church – die Kirche

Church service – der Gottesdienst

Prayer – das Gebet

Maize – der Mais

Corn – das Korn

Flour – das Mehl

Fruit – das Obst

Vegetables – das Gemüse

To be grateful/thankful – dankbar sein

Brass/wind music – die Blasmusik

Trumpet – die Trompete

Tuba – die Tuba

Ceremony – die Zeremonie

Procession – die Prozession

Wreath – der Kranz



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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Michael:

    “Die Erntekrone” who receives it? And under what circumstances. Thank you, Constanze, for your contribution to my understanding of German language and culture.

  2. Pius:

    Thanks for all of your efforts to help us. Love the Erntedankfest Music.