Word of the Week: Hochwasserhose

Are your pants too short? Are your socks visible when you sit down? You may be wearing a Hochwasserhose!

The word Hochwasserhose means “high-water-pants” and it refers to a pair of pants that don’t quite cover your ankles. Such pants would be great if your bathroom is flooded – or if heavy rains are flooding the streets outside! After all, you wouldn’t want to get your pants wet, would you?

Originally, a Hochwasserhose was designed to be worn during floods. In 1534, a German physicist “invented” the concept, creating stylish pants that were short and perfect for rainy weather.

Today, however, people jokingly use the word Hochwasserhose to make fun of someone’s super short pants, which do not fit them the way they are supposed to. Parents, for example, might refer to their child’s Hochwasserhose after their kid has a growth spurt, leaving their pants too short at the ankles. In the workplace, you might spot a colleague whose pants are too short, exposing their dress socks for the world to see. In this case, wearing a Hochwasserhose is not the most stylish decision!

But in some cases, a Hochwasserhose can be intentionally designed that way – either for purposes of fashion or utility. So-called “ankle jeans” – which end just before the ankle – are intentionally designed to be short and considered stylish.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The Legend of Saint Nicholas

© dpa / picture-alliance

“Ho, ho, ho, have you all been good?” The old man with a long white beard, a bishop’s miter, and a thick red cape stands with his finger raised before  the excited children, his eyes moving from one beaming face to the next.

“Yes!” they all shout in unison, impatiently eyeing the heavy brown sack that Saint Nicholas has carried in from the cold night over his shoulder. What could it possibly hold? Toys, books, or even candy? “Well, that’s good to hear!” Nicholas declares and opens his big golden book, from which he reads the names of the children and presents each of them with a small gift from his sack. They politely thank him, offer homemade cookies to
their peculiar guest, and recite small poems. Finally, they accompany him to the door, where he trots off with a jolly “ho, ho, ho,” disappearing into the dark on his way to the next house.

Diverse origins

Such a visit is not at all unusual in Germany in the pre-Christmas season, for every year on December 6 Saint Nicholas is remembered and celebrated in this way. Like many traditions handed down over the centuries, it is unclear what is true and what has been added over time to the legend of Saint Nicholas.

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“Better than Berghain”: German Embassy hosts “Wunderbar Goes Underground” alumni dance party

What do you get when you mix DC’s coolest underground venue, the graffiti-covered abandoned trolley station/arts space Dupont Underground, with one of Berlin’s hottest DJs, psychedelic video projections, and hundreds of dancing friends of transatlantic exchange?

An instant-legend, Berlin-meets-DC club event that was “better than Berghain” in the words of one enthusiastic attendee.

It was only fitting that the German Embassy would “go big” with its annual alumni dance party during the Year of German-American Friendship, better known by its motto “Wunderbar Together”.

With Berlin native DJ Cooper at the turntables, the Urban Artistry dance crew’s hip-hop moves got the crowd into the groove. Attendees relished the chance to revive the exchange experience, capturing the spirit of making new friends, breaking down borders and coming together!

By Jacob Comenetz, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Putzfimmel

We’ve all heard the stereotype: Germans are obsessed with cleanliness. And there’s even a German word that describes this condition: Putzfimmel!

Putz comes from putzen, which means “to clean”. Fimmel is a craze or an obsession. So the word Putzfimmel describes an obsession with cleaning. Sounds pretty German, right?

Someone who has a Putzfimmel is likely to keep his or her house organized, clean and spotless at all times. Any trace of dirt is immediately removed. Dishes are never left in the sink, and clothes are folded right away. A Putzfimmel is a mania for cleanliness. There is no direct translation in English, but Americans might refer to someone with this condition as obsessive-compulsive.

And there’s another German word that’s closely related: Putzteufel, which means “cleaning devil” – someone who can’t stop cleaning.

But of all the conditions that are out there, Putzfimmel is probably not the worst: after all, who wouldn’t want to have a spotless home?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Find Wunderbar Together events near you!

You may have heard about Wunderbar Together, a year-long campaign celebrating German-American friendship. With more than 1,000 events in all 50 states, Wunderbar Together  may be coming to a town near you!

You can now search for Wunderbar Together events by location, topic or date! Visit www.WunderbarTogether.org to see what’s happening!

Marking the Advent season

Celebrating Advent is an important part of Christmas in Germany. For Christians of both Protestant and Roman Catholic, it is a time of quiet contemplation that begins four Sundays before Christmas Eve.

Advent calendars

This German invention became a custom at the turn of the 20th century and has since advanced to worldwide popularity.

Advent calendars in Germany have 24 small windows or doors that open to reveal a picture, candy or other small gift. Needless to say, it is a favorite with children because it helps them pass the long waiting time until December 24th, called Heiligabend in Germany. That is the evening on which presents are shared in Germany.

Many families put great effort into crafting their own special calendars. Also a seemingly endless variety of calendars can be found in stores—from simple cardboard panels hiding chocolate to elaborate three dimensional structures containing toys.

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Advent wreaths

An Advent wreath—often made of evergreen branches and usually decorated with four candles—is one of the most popular symbols of the season. On the four Sundays in Advent families often gather to light the candles and to sing carols and read Christmas stories together. The evergreen wreath has its roots in the northern city of Hamburg, where in 1839 a wreath was hung in the prayer hall of the Rauhes Haus charity. This arrangement made of pine branches found favor in the homes of Protestant families, particularly those living in northern Germany. In the 1920s, though, Roman Catholics began to adopt the custom too.

Originally decorated with 24 candles, one for each day of Advent, the number has long been reduced to four, symbolizing the four Sundays before Christmas.

Make sure you follow us on social media @germanyinusa for a fun Advent giveaway starting this Sunday!

How the German town Himmelpfort is bringing Christmas joy to kids around the world

Christmas is just over a month away, which means you should start writing your letters to Santa soon! Where should you send them? Well, some people send their letters to the North Pole. And others send them to Himmelpfort.

The tiny German village of Himmelpfort is located 60 miles north of Berlin. Although it has a population of only 500, it has one of the busiest post offices in Germany (relative to its population, at least). For the last 34 years, the town has been receiving letters to Father Christmas.

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This year, the Himmelpfort post office has already received more than 12,000 letters to Santa. Hundreds of thousands of letters come in every holiday season – so this is just the beginning. Father Christmas and his 20 volunteers in Himmelpfort promise to personally answer every letter that arrives before December 16.

But why are these letters arriving in Himmelpfort in the first place?

It all began in 1984, when a few children mistakenly sent their Christmas wish lists to Himmelpfort. The translation of the village’s name is “Heaven’s Gate”, and they kids assumed that this is where Father Christmas lives. When the local postwoman saw the letters, she decided to send back a reply “from Santa”. Once the children received a response, more children excitedly started to send letters to Himmelpfort, starting a trend that continues to this day.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Today, the Deutsche Post (the German Post Office) sets up an official Christmas Post Office in Himmelpfort for two months each year, bringing in volunteers to answer letters from children in 16 different languages. If you or your children would like a response from Santa, don’t send a letter to the North Pole – send it to Himmelpfort instead!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Intern Q&A: Maximilian C. Epping

This week, we are introducing one of our interns in the press department at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Max sheds light on his experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Name: Maximilian C. Epping

Where you’re from:  I’m originally from Muenster in North Rhine Westphalia, but I have been living in Hamburg for about eight years now and just love the maritime environment in that area.

Maximilian C. Epping (right) with another German Embassy intern (left) at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Where and what you’re studying: I graduated from Law School in 2017 and am doing my legal clerkship right now, which we call “Referendariat”. It is kind of a traineeship with different three-to-nine month long internships. I have been interning with the court of appeals for criminal matters and the district court for commercial matters in Hamburg. My third stage is now with the German embassy here in Washington, D.C.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy? (Please name a specific task, not “everything”)

I really enjoyed helping with the organization of a specific event directly in front of the Lincoln Memorial. We installed a stage and invited the German break-dance group “The Flying Steps”, who performed their choreography accompanied by Bach music. The event was open to the public and the people seemed to really enjoy it. It symbolized the German American friendship, which we are promoting right now with the motto “Wunderbar together – Germany and the U.S.”. I came to the U.S. for the first time in 2008 for a semester abroad during high school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When I told my former host mother that I was working for the Germany Embassy in D.C., she found a photo of my colleagues and me at the event on the Internet and posted it on Facebook with love and hugs from Tennessee. I was very touched when I saw that and will be visiting my host family over Thanksgiving this year.

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Word of the Week: Kaufrausch

When the holiday season begins, the stores are filled with shoppers trying to collect gifts for loved ones.

Parking is difficult, stores are overcrowded, lines are long and many items are sold out. This is all due to the so-called Kaufrausch.

The German word Kaufrausch means “shopping spree”. It comes from the words kaufen (“to buy”) and Rausch (“rush”).

The word can be used in many different contexts. If, for example, someone is seeking retail therapy, that person may be on a spontaneous Kaufrausch by him-or herself on a quiet day at the mall.

In another case, someone may be fighting mobs of shoppers who are all on a Kaufrausch at the same time – like during the holiday season. During the week of Thanksgiving, Black Friday sales also instigate a Kaufrausch in shopping centers across the US. Some of you may even be participating in one this week!

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A person is most likely to go on a Kaufrausch when there are good sales, but it can happen at any time. So if you’re getting ready for a Kaufrausch today, just be mindful that you may not be the only one!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

The history of Black Friday shopping – in Germany!

It’s Friday! We’re guessing many of our American friends are off work today. You may be reading this while standing in line at a shopping mall because after all, it’s Black Friday and there’s plenty of deals to steal!

But while Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Black Friday is slowly becoming a global phenomenon – and Germans are among those who are participating.

Black Friday is – and always has been – a consumer’s holiday. The Friday after Thanksgiving has always marked the start of the holiday shopping season. But the term “Black Friday” first came to use in a different context: in the 1950s, American factory works used the term because so many of their coworkers called in sick on the day after Thanksgiving. In the 1960s, Philadelphia police were struggling to deal with traffic jams, large crowds and shoplifters on that Friday, also bringing the word “Black Friday” into use. The term was used in a negative context in both of these instances.

Continue reading “The history of Black Friday shopping – in Germany!”