The German words and phrases you need to know to survive the holidays

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The German words and phrases you need to know to survive the holidays
Adventszeit in Germany. Photo: DPA

With festivities around the corner, we've put together a few words and phrases that will come in handy.


Christmas and New Year's can be a wonderful time of year. But it's also a bit (or very) stressful. And if you're spending it as a foreigner in Germany, you might feel a bit overwhelmed at times.


So here are some festive phrases to familarize yourself with, so you can feel a bit more relaxed over Christmas and in the days leading up to the New Year.

Greetings at Christmas
Let's start with the basics. Merry Christmas is Fröhliche Weihnachten or Frohe Weihnachten. But here are a few more greetings you could use:
Besinnliche Feiertage: have a peaceful/reflective holiday time
Frohes Fest: happy holidays
Schöne Festtage: have a lovely festive time
Erholsame Feiertage: have a relaxing/rejuvenating festive time.
The time leading up to Christmas is Advent time (die Adventszeit). Many Germans celebrate by baking cookies (die Plätzchen) and enjoying time with family or friends at Christmas markets (der Weihnachtsmarkt) where they might glug down some mulled wine (der Glühwein).
Then, of course Saint Nicholas Day (der Nikolaustag) is on December 6th. On the evening of the 5th, children leave out shoes in the hope that Saint Nicholas will fill them with chocolates.
Festive traditions
Germans tend to buy and decorate their Christmas tree (Weihnachtsbaum, Tannenbaum) on the 23rd or 24th December, although it often happens a bit earlier nowadays. They might get together as a family to put decorations (der Baumschmuck) on it.
Baubles (die Christbaumkugeln or die Kugeln) are hung on the branches along with Christmas tree lights (die Christbaumkerzen) and tinsel (Lametta).
When it comes to presents, families open them on December 24th. And as to who's delivering them? Well, that's still a debate.
Today, in mostly Catholic areas of the country (the south), children still expect gifts from the Christkind. In the largely Protestant north and east, the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) is considered the bearer of Christmas gifts.
A Christmas tree seller in Hanover. Photo: DPA
New Year's greetings
New Year in Germany is called Silvester and celebrated on December 31st.

If you want to wish someone happy New Year you could say: Frohes neues Jahr.

Here's some other greetings:

Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr: This literally translates as 'have a good slide into to the New Year' but really means 'have a good start to the New Year.'

Komm gut ins neue Jahr: Have a nice New Year

Komm gesund ins neue Jahr: Arrive healthily into the New Year

New Year's traditions

In Germany on Silvester you might very well need sparkling wine (der Sekt) to get you through the festivities.

Like lots of other places, New Year's Eve is filled with lots of noise. Germans love setting off fireworks (die Feuerwerke) or firecrackers (die Böllern).

Fireworks in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Those who stay home on Silvester in Germany are likely to be watching the 1963 TV recording of the British comedy sketch Dinner for one.


The programme has been a treasured part of German New Year's tradition since 1972 and holds the Guinness record for being the most frequently repeated TV show in history.

READ ALSO: 'Germans have kept it alive': Dinner for One star's son on the enduring legacy of a New Year favourite

Of course, the phrase you'll need for this tradition is actually in English:

“The same procedure as every year, James”

Snacks aplenty

Anyone in front of the telly might be eating Fondue (a traditional Swiss dish made of melted cheese).

They may also be scoffing jelly doughnuts (die Pfannkuchen) too. But be careful... at some point it became a well-known prank to put mustard in one or two of the Pfannkuchen as a funny surprise for New Year's guests.

Viel Glück!

For those who go out on Silvester, good luck charms are often exchanged in the form of little pig figures, horseshoes or four-leaf clovers.

Acquaintances may give good luck charms to each other in the form of pigs, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and pigs.

With reporting by Kathrin Thams


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