German Advent word of the day: Die Plätzchen

They come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. What, you ask, are we talking about? Of course cookies!

German Advent word of the day: Die Plätzchen
Photo: DPA

Advent time in Germany is characterized by Christmas markets and Glühwein – but most importantly by Christmas cookies.

What does it mean?

“Plätzchen” translates to cookies or biscuits (but in a different context it can also refer to the spot where you are sitting).

Often these cookies have to be rolled out by a “Nudelholz” (literally translated to noodle wood, but it means rolling pin), and then cut into shapes by cookie cutters – or, as Germans would say, “Ausstechförmchen”.

But it does not just define any cookie. It usually specifically refers to Christmas cookies.

What is the history of the “Plätzchen”?

“Plätzchen” derives from “Platz” (its diminutive form) which here means a small, flat cake.

In the 18th century, only the wealthier social classes savoured “Plätzchen”, because only they could afford the expensive ingredients needed for these cookies. Sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder were not affordable for the average person.

Up until the 19th century “Plätzchen” were considered a luxury. Only with the production of sugar from turnips was it accessible for other social classes.

And since it was still rather expensive for the common man, people would only bake “Plätzchen” for special occasions, such as Christmas.

What characterizes a German “Plätzchen”?

Many traditional Christmas cookies are in the form of a star which is a religious gesture and symbolic of the “Stern zu Bethlehem” (Star of Bethlehem).

But most people simply bake the cookies in the forms that they like.

There are a dozen varieties of “Ausstechförmchen” such as reindeer, hearts or boots (Saint Nikolaus’ boot).

And there are hundreds of different kinds, often with nuts, cinnamon, or candies fruit such as “Zitronat” (candied lemon peel) or “Orangat (candied orange peel).

The classic, well-known Christmas cookies are “Vanillekipferl” (vanilla crescent cookie), “Schwarz-Weiß-Gebäck” (black and white cookie, often in the form of a chess board), and “Elisenlebkuchen” (a special kind of gingerbread cookie).


“Mama, deine Plätzchen sind mal wieder köstlich!”

“Mom, your cookies are once again luscious!”

“Welche Plätzchen wollen wir heute in unserer Weihnachtsbäckerei backen?”

“Which cookies do you want to bake in our Christmas bakery today?”


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German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.