German Advent word of the day: Der Stollen

Like candy canes in America or Christmas pudding in the UK, this Christmas treat is characteristic for Germany.

German Advent word of the day: Der Stollen
Photo: DPA

Either homemade or bought in a bakery or supermarket, this is the traditional treat to enjoy during Christmas.

What does it mean?

Dresdner Christstollen. Photo: DPA

A “Stollen” is a special Christmas cake, mostly referred to as fruit cake, which has three main varieties.

The original kind contains dried candied fruits such as lemon or orange peels.

But the name fruit cake is a slightly misleading because you would expect large chunks of dried fruit but, usually, these fruits are crushed into small pieces so that no large chunks remain.

The second kind contains marzipan, and often raisins, which makes the cake moist.

And the third kind is filled with poppy seeds, which gives the dough a black, moist colour which is very appealing to the eye.

Whether with fruit, marzipan or poppy seeds all of these cakes are loaf-formed and covered in powdered sugar.

What is the history behind the “Stollen”?

“Stollen”, likewise referred to as “Christstollen”, is the number one traditional German Christmas pastry.

The tradition began as early as the Middle Ages. Although during that time it was considered a fasting pastry in monasteries during the Advent.

The recipe formerly included very little ingredients (no butter for example) and therefore was rather dry.

Only later did Pope Innozenz VIII allow butter to be added to the recipe. And since then the recipe spread to be loved and incorporated as a Christmas tradition by most German families.

Nowadays, “Stollen” is one of the most popular Christmas treats. Especially the “Dresdner Christstollen”, which is renown for its original recipe and even trademarked.

Where does the name come from?

Presumably, the cake received its name from miners who would take the cake with them underground as a food supply.

The cake would not mold quickly and was moist so that it did not dry out as as easily. This made the sweet ideal for these workers.

In German mining tunnels are called “Stollen” which is supposedly how the cake received its name.


“Kaufst du eigentlich zu Weihnachten Christstollen oder machst du ihn selber?”

“Do you actually buy the fruit cake for Christmas or do you make it yourself?”

“Ich bin nicht so ein Fan von dem Stollen mit viel Zitronat und Orangeat. Ich mag den mit Marzipan viel lieber.”

“I am not such a fan of the Christmas cake with a lot of dried fruit. I like the one with marzipan a lot more.”

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German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Anyone struggling with learning German (or any big skill) could use this popular piece of reassurance.

German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Why do I need to know this?

If you’re getting down on yourself for not doing something you are still learning just right – be it playing the piano or speaking German – you can gently comfort yourself with this phrase. Or you can confidently cite it to reassure your perfectionist friend or family member that they are indeed making great strides towards their goal.

What does it mean?

Literally translated as “There is still no master which has fallen from the sky,” the expression gets the idea across that no one is born – or comes pummeling down from the heavens – as an expert at something.

Rather they become a Meister (or at least halfway decent) through continuous hard work and discipline. 

READ ALSO: 12 colourful German expressions that will add swagger to your language skills

The saying is similar to the also widely used “Übung macht den Meister” (Practice makes the master) or the English version: Practice makes perfect. 

Not surprisingly, Germans – who pride themselves on industriously reaching their goals – have several other equivalent sayings. They include “Ohne Fleiß kein Preis” (There’s no prize without hard work) and “Von nichts kommt nichts” (Nothing comes out of nothing).

Where does it come from?

The popular phrase can be traced back to the Latin “Nemo magister natus”, or no one is born a master. Another version is “Nemo nascitur artifex” or no one is born an artist. This explains why so many languages have similar expressions.

What are some examples of how it’s used?

Sei nicht so streng mit dir selbst. Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one is born perfect. 

Mein Trainer sagte, es sei noch kein perfekter Schwimmer vom Himmel gefallen.

My coach said that no one is born a perfect swimmer.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust