SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

CHRISTMAS

Why this is Germany’s favourite Christmas movie

From humble beginnings and a small production budget, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel has become the seminal Christmas film across much of Europe - including Germany.

Why this is Germany's favourite Christmas movie
A scene from Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel. Photo: DPA

Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel – otherwise known in English as Three Wishes/Gifts For Cinderella (or Three Hazelnuts For Cinderella in a direct translation) – is a fairytale film originally produced in 1973 which has gone on to become a Christmas staple across much of Europe. 

The film, a co-production between Czechoslovakian and East German production companies, is watched during the festive season in much of central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia – and Switzerland.

Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is shown over the Christmas period – This year it’s being shown 12 times in Germany, a pattern which is pretty much repeated every year.

The plot of the movie has all of the staples you’d come to expect from a European fairytale, including a beautiful yet poorly treated servant girl who may *spoiler alert* become a princess, an evil stepmother, a handsome prince looking to be wed, an ugly sister, magic hazelnuts which grant wishes, a lost slipper – and an assortment of enchanted forest creatures with our heroine’s best wishes at heart.

Indeed, despite being a Christmas classic – the movie isn’t really a Christmas film at all, in that it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of a traditional Christmas film. 

The movie was originally set during summer, but was later moved by the director to winter as the film crew had plenty of work during the warmer months. 

READ ALSO: What’s the history behind Germany’s Christmas traditions?

Photo: DPA

As it wasn’t cold enough at all of the shooting locations to guarantee snow, much of it was artificial – with fishmeal the most commonly used substitute, which led to some notoriously bad odours on set.

The movie was made against a backdrop of controversy, with screenwriter Frantisek Pavlicek – who adapted the movie from the original Brothers Grimm tales – suffering under a ban from the Czech government when the movie was made and credited under a pseudonym. 

Although the film may seem a tad outdated by modern standards in its depictions of a beautiful woman waiting for her prince, at the time in Eastern Europe it was seen as revolutionary, particularly as she actively contributes to the ending of the movie – not least by stealing and taming the prince’s horse.

And in 2021 there’s also a remake of the original being shown on Amazon DE – so you can also see how that measures up. 

Legacy 

Shot in both East Germany and Prague, the film premiered in East Berlin in 1973. 

Much like how Dinner For One has become a television fixture in German-speaking Europe on New Year’s Eve, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is now synonymous with Christmas across much of the continent. 

Despite being screened in both the United Kingdom and the United States – on the BBC and CBS respectively – the film has failed to gain a similar foothold in the English-speaking world.

Finally, for anyone who’s already met their Cinderella or their handsome prince, the castle which is the centrepiece of the film – the Moritzburg Castle near Dresden – can be rented for weddings and parties. 

You’re recommended to get in early however, as you’ll be competing with an entire generation of children hoping that they can live happily ever after, just like their on-screen heroes.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: FKK, raging Roland and ham on Father’s Day

In our weekend roundup for Germany we consider the possible culture shock of FKK, cool train trips and Männertag.

Living in Germany: FKK, raging Roland and ham on Father's Day

What are your thoughts on Germany’s attitude to nudity?

One of our most popular stories this week was a feature on why Germans love getting naked. Of course this doesn’t apply to every single person in Germany, but there’s undoubtedly a strong culture of FKK – Freikörperkultur – or free body culture. It can be a bit of a shock to foreigners when they first arrive in Germany or visit on holiday. FKK beaches, where people let it all hang out, are jarring when you’ve come from a culture where naked bodies are really only viewed in a sexual context. (Brits and Americans fall into this category!)

That’s the thing about FKK – it’s actually meant to be quite wholesome. Even if Germans are not into FKK, they do – in general – seem more at ease with their bodies than many other nationalities, and aren’t so worried about getting changed in gyms or at the swimming pool. What do you think about Germany’s attitude to nudity? Could we all learn something from it, or is it a bit too open? Drop us an email with your thoughts: [email protected]

Tweet of the week

We had to chuckle at this map of Germany shared by a German journalist on Twitter. Perhaps there’s a little truth to it…

Where is this? 

Photo: DPA/Stefan Sauer

Fancy a ride on a steam-powered train? You can if you head up to the very-cool looking Rügen narrow-gauge railway (Rügensche Bäderbahn), nicknamed the Rasender Roland (raging Roland). It has travelled across Germany’s island of Rügen from Putbus to Göhren since 1895. And, according to local German media, you can also use your €9 ticket in June, July and August on this railway since it’s part of the local public transport. 

Did you know?

We have a nationwide public holiday coming up – Thursday, May 26th is Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt). In Germany it’s also Vatertag or Männertag (Father’s Day/Men’s Day). On this day, you can often see a lot of groups of men drinking beer together. 

This particular tradition apparently comes from the 18th century and it was based on the idea of Jesus’ return to his father in heaven. Back in the olden days, men would be taken into their village centre, and the man who had fathered the most children was presented with a prize by the mayor, which was usually a chunk of ham. That led to the modern tradition we see today of men carting around alcohol, eating food and walking around the countryside. Nowadays, people also use it as a day to party (all genders included) or relax. Whether there’s ham and alcohol involved in your day – or not – we hope you have a great one. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

This article is also sent out as a weekly newsletter just to members every Saturday. To sign up and get it straight into your inbox just go to your newsletter preferences.

SHOW COMMENTS