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LEARNING GERMAN

What exactly is Germany’s ‘Green Thursday’?

Thursday April 1st 2021 marks 'Gründonnerstag' in Germany. How exactly did the day get its name, and is it a public holiday?

What exactly is Germany's 'Green Thursday'?
An easter bunny sculpture in Barth, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: DPA

The Thursday before the Easter weekend is “Holy Thursday” in English. In German, however, you call it Gründonnerstag, which means “Green Thursday.” And now I am just as confused as you are.

So how did the day receive its name?

Let’s have a look at this mysterious word. First of all, we have to keep in mind that Gründonnerstag isn’t the only word for this day – it’s just the most common one. Other words are Hoher Donnertag (“High Thursday”), heiliger Donnerstag (“Holy Thursday”) or even weißer Donnerstag (“White Thursday.”) But since Gründonnerstag is the most common word, let’s focus on that one.

Gründonnerstag is the day the churches remember The Last Supper, the last time Jesus got together with his twelve apostles to dine. Why exactly this day is carrying the colour green isn’t clear, but several theses exist to explain it.

The first and most probably most common thesis is the meaning of Grüne (“Greens”) as sinful people. After the fasting period in the week prior to Easter, these sinners made public were allowed to return to the church community as people without sin.

A second thesis is hidden in here – Gründonnerstag could also derive from the notion of grîn donerstac, where grînen is an Old High German word for crying. Hence, this thesis means that the sinners cry on this day to show the regrets they have.

Could it actually have to do something with the colour green?

Another thesis also links to greens, but in the more known way – as vegetables. Since probably the 14th century, it was tradition to especially eat green vegetables on Gründonnerstag.

Those include for example kale, salad and young sprouts, which are found everywhere in spring. The reasons for this diet are that it combines the requirements for fasting with the belief that spring vegetables get everyone’s energy going, so to say.

As you can see, the origin of Gründonnerstag is a tricky business. But at least it doesn’t mean that everyone has to dress in green.

Rabbits also enjoying being outside near Thuringia on Gründonnerstag. Photo: DPA

Is it a public holiday?

No. Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to make the day a public holiday as part of a plan to stem rising coronavirus cases, but decided to overturn it less than two days later.

That means that businesses are still allowed to stay open and employers don’t have to compensate employees for a day off, although some do anyways, especially for public sector jobs.

Examples:

Der Gründonnerstag ist kein Feiertag in Deutschland.

The Holy Thursday isn’t a public holiday in Germany.

Am Gründonnerstag traf sich Jesus zum letzten Mal mit seinen Jüngern.

The Holy Thursday marks the day Jesus met his apostles for the last time.

Ich weiß nicht, warum es Gründonnerstag heißt.

I don’t know why it’s called “Gründonnerstag.”

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
 
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.
 
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