What does it mean?
Most years in Germany, after a hearty Christmas dinner and maybe a church service on December 24th, there will most likely be a Bescherung.
Gifts wrapped up and ready for opening on Christmas Eve. Photo: DPA.
This is the moment when everyone gathers around the Christmas tree and opens presents. Die Bescherung is a noun, describing the event and is based on the verb bescheren, to give or bring, especially presents.
Where does it come from?
Bescheren has its roots in the Middle High German word beschern, which means “assign” or “deliver.”
Historically, it was associated closely with notions of fate and God’s allotment to humans.
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As a result, gifts were often seen as coming from Christ, as divine presents.
Now, German children celebrating Christmas receive gifts on Christmas Eve either from Der Christkind or Der Weihnachtsmann.
Animals want a Bescherung too! A gorilla in Stuttgart receives his Christmas gift. Photo: DPA.
Bescherung is one of the interesting cases where a word can have two completely opposite meanings based on the situation it is used in. If you use it as part of an excited expression on Christmas it has a positive connotation.
However, if you hear a German say “Da haben wir die Bescherung!” or “schöne Bescherung” it might mean something a bit different. These are colloquial phrases used to note an unpleasant surprise.
A 1998 production of “Schöne Bescherung” as a play in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA.
In fact, the German title of the “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie is “Schöne Bescherung.” Uncle Eddie’s arrival at the Griswold’s is a classic example of a schöne Bescherung.
Wann haben wir die Bescherung?
When do we open the presents?
Er bescherte mir ein wunderschönes Geschenk.
He gave me a wonderful present.