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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Here’s how to make the most of Thanksgiving in Germany

If Turkey-day was your most beloved holiday back Stateside, you might be feeling a bit blue knowing that it’s not exactly a thing in Deutschland. But we’re here to help make those cranberry sauce-soaked, gravy-covered dreams come true.

Here's how to make the most of Thanksgiving in Germany
Photo: Depositphotos

1. Track down a turkey – or choose not to

As you may have noticed, there aren’t exactly rows of frozen turkeys on offer in German supermarkets as in the US come November. But there are still options if you’re set on noshing on some slowly roasted North American fowl.
 
High-end department stores, like KaDeWe in Berlin, often provide the pricey opportunity to scoop up a frozen turkey, but you can also try calling up a local butcher to order one in advance.
 
An alternative is to settle for a whole chicken or goose – much more common in grocery stores – or simply pick up part of a turkey, called Pute or Truthahn in German.
 
2. Find food substitutes
 
Cranberry sauce is a classic accompaniment on Thanksgiving. Photo: Deposit Photos.
 
As with turkey, sometimes you can’t always find the right ingredients you need for American fare. Take cornbread, for example. The most important component is cornmeal, but this doesn’t really exist in German cuisine. The best substitute that this American has found is called Maisgrieß – and it always turns out delicious.
 
On the other hand, thanks to globalization there are ever more North American products on offer in German supermarkets, especially Edeka, Lidl and Kaisers, many of which often have small ‘American’ sections.
 
I’ve spotted cranberries in Kaisers for the past several years, and even once in Aldi. But a substitute can also be Preiselbeeren, known as lingonberries or cowberries in English. They have a similar taste to cranberries and can be found already jarred as a jam or preserves in many German supermarkets.
 
3. Find the right equipment
 
Tracking down a proper pie dish can be another challenge since apparently this treat is not so common in Germany.
 
For future reference, if you love making pies, it’s probably a good idea to have an American bring a pie dish along on their next visit – or pick one up yourself when you’re in the US.
 
But when you can’t get your hands on one in time, try getting creative with a tart or torte pan, or Tortenbodenform.
 
 
4. Learn to convert into metric measurements
 
If you’re looking to use grandma’s traditional cornbread stuffing recipe, but realize you have no clue how to measure out the right proportions using the metric system, don’t worry.
 
There are plenty of online converters to do the hard work for you – like the one on Allrecipes.com.

And if you’re really in doubt, try using a similar recipe by a British website instead (which like the BBC tend to have grams and ounces).

5. Go to an already planned Thanksgiving dinner
 
 

Friends. Food. American Football. Happy thanksgiving y'all! #thanksgiving #nfl #american #dinner #friends

A photo posted by Belushi's Bars (@belushis) on Nov 26, 2015 at 9:59am PST

 
If you decide to just skip the hassle of tracking down ingredients through multiple stores, there may be at least a couple pre-arranged Thanksgiving events in your area – even some with (American) football on offer. Take a look at any local American bars, hotels or restaurants to see what they have planned.
 
Here’s a list of some to consider, and some may require reservations. Some also take place over the weekend, and one belated celebration in Cologne occurs on December 7th. 
 
Berlin

Hard Rock Cafe Thanksgiving lunch celebration

November 28th, starts at 12 pm 

Kurfürstendamm 224 

Thanksgiving cooking course at Kochwerk

November 28th, from 6 pm to 10 pm

Roelckerstraße 105

Thanksgiving Buffet at Dasclubhaus

November 28th, from 6:30 pm to 10 pm

Roedernstraße 16

Hamburg

The American Club’s Thanksgiving Dinner

November 28th, from 6:30-10:30 pm

Bugenhagenstraße 8

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at Das Auswanderermuseum BallinStadt Hamburg

November 28th, from 6:30-11pm

Veddeler Bogen 2

Frankfurt/Hesse

Thanksgiving Dinner at Grand Hotel Hessischer Hof

November 28th, from 6:30 pm

Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 40

American Thanksgiving Dinner Buffet at Champions

November 28th, from 6:30-11:30 pm

Hamburger Allee 2

Thanksgiving at Schloss Vollrads

November 28th, from 6 pm

Vollradser Allee

65375 Oestrich-Winkel / Winkel

Munich

Thanksgiving Dinner and American Football at The Kennedy’s

November 28th, from 5 pm

Sendlinger-Tor-Platz 11

Friday Thanksgiving Dinner at Meatingraum

November 29th, from 7pm to 10 pm 

Gollierstraße 38

Thanksgiving Buffet at Tivoli Restaurant

November 28th, from 6 to 9 pm

Tucherpark 7

Cologne

Sunday Thanksgiving Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe

December 1st. Menu available from 12 pm – 10 pm

Gürzenichstraße 8

Belated Thanksgiving Dinner at Restaurant Mederanno

December 7th, from 7 to 10 pm

Plectrudengasse/Lichhof 12

Article updated November 27th, 2019.

Member comments

  1. As I’m A Canadian Living in Germany our Thanksgiving is usually in October. But we decided to have a Thanksgiving this weekend with friends from Nuremberg. (We are in Würzburg) as a test for Christmas when our boys are here. I found fresh cranberries to make sauce and remembered how to make pie crust for a cherry pie. 10lb turkey (4kgs) from REAL and hopefully all good lol!

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays – and will it ever change?

Germany's strict ban on shops opening on Sundays can be a shock to foreigners. We looked at the culture around it, and spoke to one of the country's largest trade unions to find out if things are ever likely to change.

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays - and will it ever change?

It’s Sunday. You’ve invited people for dinner, but you’ve forgotten the most important ingredient. Tough luck – you’ll either have to do without or wait until Monday because your local shops are shut. 

Most of us are familiar with this inconvenience, and perhaps you’ve even found yourself screaming: “Why?” in frustration in front of a locked-up supermarket. 

But it’s something us adopted Germans have had to get used to. We decided to take a look at the reasons behind Germany’s ban on Sunday shopping – and to find out if it might change in future. 

Where does the rule come from?

The Sonntagsruhe or ‘Sunday rest’ principle is an integral part of German culture, so much so that it is enshrined in the German constitution (Grundgesetz).

Article 140 of the law, which has remained unchanged since 1919, says: “Sundays and state-recognised public holidays remain protected by law as days of rest from work and spiritual upliftment.” 

But the practice of not working on Sunday has been around for much longer. The idea that the seventh day of the week is a day of rest dates back to the old testament and was declared a general day of rest across the Roman Empire as early as 321, by Roman Emperor Constantine.

In the centuries since, however, most of Europe has gradually relaxed the strict ban on commercial activities on Sundays. 

But in Germany, the rules remain restrictive. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon partly because of religious reasons, and also in relation to the interests of workers.

Germany’s biggest trade union Verdi spelled out their view. “It’s not ‘modern’ to work seven days a week,” they told The Local. “That’s the Middle Ages.” 

What exactly does the law mean?

On the face of it, the German law forbids all forms of work on Sundays and public holidays, though numerous exceptions are laid out in the Working Time Act. 

As well as emergency and rescue services, hospitals, nursing and care facilities, exceptions include cultural and sporting activities, and the hospitality sector. 

Another notable exemption to the rule is bakeries, which are allowed to open for three hours on Sundays – which is why you may often find a long queue at your local baker if you want to get your freshly baked Brötchen on Sunday morning. 

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery.

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Illustrating how seriously the rule can be taken in Germany, there have even been cases of bakeries being sued for selling bread for too long on Sundays.

Shops, however, aren’t exempt from the rule and, the only way they can legally open on a Sunday is on a so-called verkaufsoffener Sonntag – Sunday trading day.

In most federal states, shops are allowed to open on between four and eight Sundays per year, and the States can decide when these should be. The chosen days must, however, be linked to a relevant occasion – such as a local festival, a market, a trade fair, or a similar event. 

Sunday openings also have to be recognisable as an exception to the general rule and Sunday openings that have already been approved can often be later overturned by the courts.

How strictly is the rule enforced?

Retailers who break the rules and open for business on Sunday can face fines ranging between €500 and €2,500.

The strictness of enforcement can vary widely between different regions.

In Berlin, for example, you can still find lots of Spätis (late night shops) open on Sundays. Although this is technically illegal, the authorities in the capital seem to take more of a relaxed approach to enforcement than in other states. 

A "Späti" late-night shop in Berlin.

A “Späti” late-night shop in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Florian Schuh

In the traditionally Catholic state of Bavaria, for example, the law is much more strictly guarded and enforced.

READ ALSO: Why Germany has strict shop opening hours

Is the law likely to change?

A survey by Spiegel in 2017 showed that 61 percent of Germans wanted to be able to shop on a Sunday, and this desire is shared by the trade industry.

The German Trade Association, for example, which represents around 400,000 independent companies, has strongly criticised Germany’s refusal to budge on the issue of Sunday openings on several occasions and argued that Sunday opening is also popular with staff, with many shop assistants appreciating the work in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In its latest statement on the issue, the association stated that, especially after following the economic impact of the pandemic, many retailers would benefit greatly from being able to open on Sundays. 

READ ALSO:

“It is remarkable that in no other EU country Sunday opening is as restricted as in Germany,” the association said. “Even in strongly Catholic EU countries such as Italy and Poland, shoppers can generally shop on Sundays. The same applies to France, although they place great value on culture and socialising.”

However, even if there is a widespread desire in some quarters to allow Sunday trading, an amendment to the constitution would require the consent of two-thirds of the German parliament. Also, there remains strong opposition to changing the rule from many workers’ groups and trade unions.

Trade union Verdi, which regularly files complaints against states and organisations which seek to deviate from Sunday trading restrictions, said that Sunday rest is still very important for workers.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Arne Dedert

A spokesperson said: “We have just one day a week when employers can’t stop us from going to football together, meeting friends, attending cultural events, or spending free time with the whole family.

“And we want to keep it that way. There are six days a week when we can go shopping, take the car to the garage, do our banking, or get the package delivered from the online retailer. On Sunday, there has to be peace and quiet.”

The Verdi spokesperson added that it’s important to think about “work-life balance, and not about being available 24/7 for a company”.

We also asked the union if the law looks set to change in the near future.

The spokesperson said: “Sunday, which is a non-working day for most people, has so far been protected by the majority of political parties in Germany.

“Verdi, with its almost two million members, continues to work to ensure that working on Sunday does not become an everyday occurrence.”

So it appears that the culture shock for many non-Germans of shops being closed on Sundays won’t change anytime soon. 

READ ALSO: From nudity to sandwiches – the biggest culture shocks for foreigners in Germany

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