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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”.
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.
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.
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!
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