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The Erntedankfest is an annual traditional German celebration of similar nature to Thanksgiving in the United States. The festival is especially dedicated to thanking God for the harvest’s gifts. It became an attraction for thousands of tourists visiting Urdenbach, a Dusseldorf suburb. Church services, parades, and music are all part of the festivities.
See the fact file below for more information about Erntedankfest, or download the comprehensive worksheet pack, which contains over 11 worksheets and can be used in the classroom or homeschooling environment.
Key Facts & Information
- It is a religious holiday, but it is observed in both Catholic and Protestant churches, where the altars are decorated with sheaves of wheat and harvested fruits.
- It began as a rural festival where farmers celebrated thanksgiving while relaxing after months of hard work before becoming a tradition.
- Even though it also means thanks for the harvest, it is publicly celebrated, unlike American Thanksgiving, which is celebrated in every home.
- While it is celebrated throughout much of Germany, those in more rural regions do not. Instead, there is a holiday known as Almabtrieb. On October 1, people guide cows dressed with flowers and bells downhill from highland fields and back to their barns.
- The Almabtrieb is an annual cattle drive that takes place in Europe‘s alphine regions. During the summer, cattle herds from all over the region feed on alpine pastures, a practice known as transhumance. The festival is marked by booths set up along the route to sell agricultural and artisans’ products, as well as alcoholic beverages, and this has helped the custom evolve into a major tourist attraction today.
- Germany supports the agricultural way of life well, with half of its total land area dedicated to this purpose. It is the third largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. As a result, a bountiful harvest is extremely important and eagerly anticipated in the country, and the citizens express their gratitude for it in this celebration.
- Harvest festivals can be traced back to ancient Britain when farmers gave thanks for a bountiful harvest because their livelihoods were largely dependent on it. It enabled people to prepare for the winter months by storing food and eating well during the autumn equinox.
- It is an important part of the Urdenbach tradition, as well as the tradition of the entire south of Dusseldorf and the Rheinland.
- Agriculture and nature reserves defined Urdenbach’s way of life in the early 1900s. Farmers were the first to celebrate the festival because they were thankful for their harvest.
- Most farmers found other employment, and the remaining farmers were unable to carry on the tradition.
- The management of the tradition was taken over by the Allgemeiner Burgerverein Urdenbachs (ABVU) in the middle of the twentieth century.
- ABVU still manages it today, and the majority of participants are not actual farmers but share an interest in the Urdenbach traditions.
- The Catholic Church issued an official order in 1972 announcing that the celebration would begin on the first Sunday of October, which is the first Sunday after Michaelstag or Michaelmas on September 29, a celebration honoring the three archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
- A Christian holiday known as Michaelmas, or the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, is celebrated on September 29 in certain European liturgical calendars and November 8 in Eastern traditions.
The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags
- Puritan pilgrims and the Wampanoag people in Plymouth were said to have celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621. The Pilgrims celebrated to express their gratitude to the neighboring group of people.
- Chieftain Massasoit ordered the Wampanoag to distribute a portion of the bounty harvest to the pilgrims.
- Squanto, a Native American from Patuxet who lived with the Wampanoag, also taught the pilgrims about agriculture.
- The Pilgrims were primarily grateful for their survival, which they had achieved with the assistance of the Wampanoag.
- They celebrated in the same way as European harvest festivals, with feasting, games, and prayer.
- The celebration runs from Friday to Monday, beginning with a mass in one of Urdenbach’s churches on Friday evening. During the liturgy, a song called “Nun danket alle Gott,” which translates as “Now thank we all our God,” is typically performed.
- Huge grain garlands known as Erntekränze are exhibited on doorways.
- Farmers sell fresh produce in some towns and cities while bringing their tractors or horses to show the locals.
- On Saturday, participating groups are preparing for the parade the following day, while a large party is held at Piel’s Loch in the evening.
- The parade begins on Sunday, which is always the first Sunday following September 29 or usually the first Sunday of October of each year. One hour before the parade starts at 2 p.m., groups gather.
- Following the parade, a wheelbarrow race known as the Schurreskarrenrennen is held. The finish line must be reached with the traditionally decorated wheelbarrows and costumes.
- The Sunday celebration concludes with a party.
- The clogs ball, or Blotschenball, is held on the last day of the festival, where the new royal clogs couple is announced.
- It is usually decorated with large crowns of wheat as a representation of the changing seasons, along with a display of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Some communities provide baskets of locally harvested products to the less fortunate.
- It is the Harvest crown, which is made of wheat and decorated with ribbon and paper flowers and is built on a pole.
- It is hung in the home of the family hosting the Harvest festivities.
- This custom dates back to feudal times when farmers or serfs who worked for the feudal lord made a crown out of an ear of grain and presented it to their lord to signal the end of the harvest.
- Freshly harvested products are commonly laid out for the celebration, but wheat and honeycomb are also important. Bread, made from fresh harvests, is always on every table.
- Menus vary per family, with some offering classic German foods such as Wienerschnitzel and others adopting North American customs like turkey. Aside from the food, both celebrations celebrate the harvest, which generally means a lot of food-inspired decorations like grains, honeycombs, and seasonal fruit.
- Also known as Erntedankrader, these are wheels that are commonly used to decorate both the outside and inside of a church. Fruits and vegetables are arranged in the spaces between the spokes of a large old wagon wheel.
- These are large straw figures that are displayed in fields or at the entrance to a town or village. These are frequently displayed for a long time in the field as an offering but are occasionally burned.
- These are the songs that were sung during the celebration.
- One of the most well-known is Matthias Claudius’ 1783 poem Das Bauernlied or The Peasant’s Song, which was turned into a song presented as Wir pflügen und wir streuen or We Plough and We Scatter.
- Jane Montgomery Campbell translated it into English and published it under the title We Plough the Fields and Scatter in 1861.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Erntedankfest across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Erntedankfest worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Erntedankfest, which is equivalent to the American Thanksgiving holiday in Germany.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
- Erntedankfest Facts
- Giving Thanks
- A Date to Remember
- A German Program
- Erntedankfest Word Search
- German Vocabulary
- Tradition Time
- Food is Served
- Tell the Story
- What I’ve Learned
- My Own Erntekrone
Frequently Asked Questions
What is German Erntedankfest?
The Erntedankfest is an annual traditional German celebration akin to Thanksgiving in the United States.
What is the purpose of Erntedankfest?
The festival is especially dedicated to thanking God for the harvest’s gifts.
How is Erntedankfest different from Thanksgiving?
Even though it also means thanks for the harvest, it is publicly celebrated, unlike American Thanksgiving, which is celebrated in every home.
What food is eaten in Erntedankfest?
Freshly harvested products are commonly laid out for the celebration, but wheat and honeycomb are also important. Bread, made from fresh harvests, is always on every table.
Is Erntedankfest a religious holiday?
It is a religious holiday, but it is observed in both Catholic and Protestant churches, where the altars are decorated with sheaves of wheat and harvested fruits.
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Link will appear as Erntedankfest Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 2, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.