German word of the day: Der Wunschzettel

In Germany, you might just get an answer back when you send a Wunschzettel!

German word of the day: Der Wunschzettel
A typical 'Wunschzettel'. Photo: DPA

What does it mean? 

Der Wunsch translates to “the wish,” and Der Zettel translates to “the list.” Together, they mean “the wish list,” one of the highlights of the Christmas season for many children (and perhaps adults as well). 

Where does it come from? 

The oldest wish lists found in Germany date back to the first quarter of the 18th century. Early Christmas wish lists were not actually requests for what children wanted for Christmas.

Instead, they were letters of gratitude from children addressed to the adults in their lives. This was an especially popular practice among the Protestant North-German upper class. 

Wish lists are sorted at one of Santa's addresses in Germany. Photo: DPA.

Over time, department stores and toy companies realized the power of the wish list as a marketing tool and simplified the process for children by producing lists of available products whereby children simply had to check off what they wanted for Christmas. 

Still, during war times, many children added a request for peace to their wishes, as well as dolls, toy soldiers, and other popular items. Today, children around the world carry on the tradition of writing a letter to Santa (or the Christkind) to say what they want for Christmas. In Germany, he answers. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Das Christkind

Where do children send them? 

In 1984, two children from Berlin and one from Saxony wrote letters to addressed to Santa Claus in Himmelpfort, a Lower Saxon town which translates to “Heaven’s gate.” The letters were answered by some kind postal workers who didn’t want to send them back without an answer. 

Word got around that Santa would respond to letters addressed to him in Himmelpfort. The next year, the post office received 75 letters addressed to Santa. 

Santa holds up his Himmelpfort address. Photo: DPA. 

READ ALSO: Santa's post office opens in Himmelpfort

Today, the Deutsche Post has seven locations across Germany where children can send letters to Der Christkind, St. Nikolas, or Der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus). They are guaranteed an answer as long as the letter arrives by the third Sunday in Advent (December 13th in 2020). 

The Deutsche Post has since found some additional helpers for Santa to make sure that all the children get an answer. Last year, Santa and 20 helpers responded to over 250,000 thousand letters from 64 countries. 

Example Sentences: 

Wenn du einen Wunschzettel an den Weihnachtsmann senden möchtest, verwendest du diese Adresse: An den  Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspost, 16798 Himmelpfort, Deutschland. 

If you’d like to send a wish list to Santa Claus, use this address: An den Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspost, 16798, Himmelpfort, Deutschland. 

Ich finde es wunderbar, dass Kinder Wunschzettel an Himmelpfort schicken und Antworten zurückbekommen können.

I think it’s wonderful that children can send wish lists to Himmelpfort and get answers back.

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German Christmas market closures ‘can’t be ruled out’: health expert

As Germany battles a fierce Covid wave, concerns are growing over events, with one health expert saying closures of the country's beloved Christmas markets can't be ruled out.

Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th.
Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

Martina Wenker, president of the Lower Saxony Medical Association, said she believed Christmas markets may have to be cancelled if the Covid-19 situation gets worse in Germany. 

“Depending on the regional incidence situation, closures should not be ruled out in extreme cases,” Wenker told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

“We can’t stand by and celebrate while next door in the hospitals, planned operations have to be postponed frequently, corona patients are dying, and staff in practices and clinics are at their limits.”

Wenker said regional leaders allowed the opening of Christmas markets on the basis that the Covid situation was moderate.

“But if we reach higher levels of escalation, we will have to consider whether Christmas markets are still justifiable,” she said.

Germany on Tuesday reported 32,048 Covid infections within 24 hours and 265 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence increased to 312.4 Covid cases per 100,000 residents. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence tops 300 for first time

‘Maximum safety’

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said on Monday that he wanted to ensure there was “maximum safety” around Christmas markets.

He said it will be among the topics discussed at the Covid crisis talks between the federal government and state leaders this Thursday. 

In general, Söder said mask requirements should remain at Christmas markets as well as distance rules and other protection measures. 

In an interview with broadcaster Bayern3, Söder explained that so far there is no legal framework for Bavaria to cancel Christmas markets. “At the moment, we cannot legally order it,” he said.

Some Christmas markets, which have recently opened to the public, are already enforcing strict rules such as excluding the unvaccinated from entry, or not serving alcohol to people unless they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid. 



Christmas market – (der) Weihnachtsmarkt

Celebrate – feiern

Planned operations/procedures – geplante Eingriffe 

Postponed – verschoben

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.