Culture and Experience Travel 3 MINS READ

Erntedankfest: All You Need To Know About Thanksgiving In Germany

Erntedankfest: All You Need To Know About Thanksgiving In Germany

Culture and Experience Travel 3 MINS READ
Farmer woman in a field offering colorful organic vegetables as healthy food.

The tradition of celebrating a harvest is common in several countries around the world. Canada and United States have Thanksgiving, Argentina has the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, India has Lohri, and in Japan, there’s Kinro Kansha no Hi. In Germany, they also have the tradition of observing the harvest, and each year the country holds a festival called Erntedankfest, an autumn celebration where people giving thanks to God for the harvest, an relaxing after months of hard work.

But Erntedankfest is not quite like the North American Thanksgiving! The German festival features bustling parades, alluring alters decorated with locally sourced produces, and plenty of music and dancing, among other traditions.

Eager to learn more about Thanksgiving In Germany? Then read on to know everything about one of the most fascinating harvest festivals in the world!

All About Erntedankfest: Thanksgiving In Germany

What Is Erntedankfest And How It Started

Fruits and vegetables for harvest in the church with Bible

Erntedankfest (“give thanks for the harvest festival“), is an annual celebration that happens around the time of the main harvest of a given region. The festival is a religious holiday, and it’s celebrated both in the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany with bustling parades, music, dancing, church services, and typical food.

Erntedankfest started as a rural festival as a way of giving thanks to God for the harvest and relaxing after months of hard work.

When Is Erntedankfest Celebrated?

Harvest festival ceremony (Erntedankaltar) in the church

As decreased by the Catholic church in 1972, in German-speaking countries the Erntedankfest is celebrated on the first Sunday in October, which is usually also the first Sunday following Michaelistag or Michaelmas (29 Sept.)

According to the tradition, all harvest must be completed by Michaelmas, so the farmers can move on to the winter phase of the cycle.

How Germans Celebrate Erntedankfest

Old plow young farmers at Thanksgiving Parade in Rosenheim, Germany

Erntedankfest is a beloved German celebration that features a delightful maze of traditional activities. There’s usually a parade, the “Erntedank parade”, featuring lavishing decorated trailers, and the alters of the churches are beautifully decorated with sheaves of wheat, and the fruits of the harvest. During the parade, the harvest queen (Erntekönigin) is gifted with a traditional “harvest crown” (Erntekrone) made of wheat.

The celebrations can vary according to each German region. In some communities, people fill baskets with locally sourced produce, including freshly baked bread, and give it to those in need.

Erntedankfest also features church observances, which begin with a sermon and choral singing, and a lantern and torch parade (Laternenumzug) for the children.

In rural areas, the Erntedankfest festival is more like a country fair with neighborhood feasts and town parades, with local people dressing up in traditional costume, while in larger cities the celebration is organized by the Church, fireworks at around 7 at night.

What Foods Are Eaten On Erntedankfest?

Hearty Erntedank dinner with vegetables, and turkey.

The common food that is eaten during Erntedankfest is different from North America’s typical Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, pumpkin pie, and mashed potatoes. In Germany, they usually eat the so-called Masthühnchen, which are chickens bred to be fattened up for more meat. There’s also the Der Kapaun, a castrated rooster and fatted rooster, and Die Poularde, a sterilized and fattened hen. There’s really no one meal for this holiday that’s served throughout Germany

Is Erntedankfest The Same As The American Thanksgiving?

Farmer woman in a field offering colorful organic vegetables as healthy food

While Erntedankfest is the equivalent of the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States and Canada, the German festivity is a religious celebration. And long before the first Europeans arrived in North America, farmers across Europe held celebrations at harvest time.

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