Untranslatable German: Feierabend Posted by Sten on Oct 30, 2020 in Culture, Language, People, Traditions, vocabulary
Es ist 17:00. Endlich! Feierabend. (It’s 5 pm. Finally! End of the work day.) Time to go home, or go by the Kneipe (bar) and get a Bier (beer) to relax and wind down. A typical, almost stereotypical German Brauch (tradition). And Feierabend is the untranslatable word here. Let’s look at what it means and what perhaps could be an English equivalent.
A Celebratory Evening
It can be used by itself to say that the workday comes to an end: Feierabend! If you tell Kollegen (colleagues) this, you’re basically telling them: “Come on, let’s call it a day”. Or you can say that you are “calling it a day” with: Ich mache Feierabend! (“I am doing the end of the day!” – freely translated to “I’m ending the work day and I’m leaving!”). But what does Feierabend mean?!
Feier means “party”, and Abend means “evening”. So a literal translation of the Feierabend is “party evening“. It is related to Feiertage (holidays), which are days of Ruhe (rest). Many times, like the Heiligabend (“Holy Evening”, Christmas Eve, the night before Christmas Day), the Feiertag preparations already begin the evening before, so that’s the Feierabend, the evening before a day of rest. That meaning stuck, and the word Feierabend simply became a word to describe the time after work. With the 9-5 work day, which is also normal in Germany, the Feierabend normally begins at 17:00 Uhr (5 pm).
To my knowledge, there is no English equivalent that catches the meaning of Feierabend in one word or with the exact same meaning. Feierabend is specifically associated with resting, winding down, leaving the work day behind and enjoying the evening. The closest comes the simple “end of the day”. But really, the feeling is expressed in different ways, like “calling it a day”, or saying “I’m off” instead of ich habe Feierabend to indicate that you’re not supposed to be working. This brings us to Feierabend as a Präfix (prefix)!
It is very common in Germany to have a Feierabendbier (Feierabend beer) after work. Washing the stress and work pressure down with a refreshing, cold Pils. That’s a great preposition for many Germans! And the word Feierabend gives this specific Bier that meaning of relaxation. In that way, Feierabend can do that with many things. Feierabendlauf (end-of-day run), Feierabendspiel (end-of-day game), you can come up with many fun things to do after work! And you can use Feierabend as a Präfix there.
Did you know about the word Feierabend? Do you have a good English equivalent for it? Please let me know in the comments below!
Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!
For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.