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: 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.