Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Frohe Weihnachten

This is a postcard that I just received from Postcrossing. The sender wrote:
I'd like to introduce you to German holiday greetings. "Merry Christmas" is "Frohe Weihnachten" as you can read in front. The text is a very famous German Christmas poem. It get a little bit more interesting when it comes to the New Year. We don't usually say "Frohes neues Jahr" (meaning Happy New Year) until the new year has actually come. Before we say "Guten Rutsch (ins neue Jahr)" meaning Good slide (into the new year).
This poem was written by Theodor Storm and first published in 1862. Saint Nikolaus’s best known companion is Knecht Ruprecht. ‘Knecht’ meaning ‘servant’. Historically Ruprecht was a dark sinister figure clad in a tattered robe with a big sack on his back in which, legend has it, he will place all naughty children. In Storm’s poem, Knecht Ruprecht is featured with a cane with which to chastise such children. (source: http://www.theodorstorm.co.uk/Life/knechtRuprecht.htm).

Knecht Ruprecht

Von drauß' vom Wald komm ich her; From out the forest I now appear,
ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr! To proclaim that Christmastide is here!
Allüberall auf den Tannenspitzen For at the top of every tree
sah ich goldene Lichtlein sitzen; are golden lights for all to see;
und droben aus dem Himmelstor and there from Heaven’s gate on high
sah mit großen Augen das Christkind hervor.

I saw our Christ-child in the sky.
Und wie ich so strolcht' durch den finstern Tann,  And in among the darkened trees,
da rief's mich mit heller Stimme an: a loud voice it was that called to me:
"Knecht Ruprecht", rief es, "alter Gesell, ‘Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow,’ it cried,
hebe die Beine und spute dich schnell! ‘hurry now, make haste, don’t hide!
Die Kerzen fangen zu brennen an, All the candles have now been lit --
das Himmelstor ist aufgetan.

Heaven’s gate has opened wide!
Alt' und Junge sollen nun Both young and old should now have rest
von der Jagd des Lebens einmal ruhn; away from cares and daily stress;
und morgen flieg ich hinab zur Erden; and when tomorrow to earth I fly
denn es soll wieder Weihnachten werden!"

“it’s Christmas again!” will be the cry.’
Ich sprach: "O lieber Herre Christ, And then I said: ‘O Lord so dear.
meine Reise fast zu Ende ist; My journey’s end is now quite near;
ich soll nur noch in diese Stadt, but to this town* I’ve still to go,
wo's eitel gute Kinder hat."

Where the children are good, I know.’
“Hast denn das Säcklein auch bei dir?" ‘But have you then that great sack?’
Ich sprach: "Das Säcklein, das ist hier:  ‘I have,’ I said, ‘it’s on my back.
Denn Äpfel, Nuss und Mandelkern For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts
essen fromme Kinder gern."

For God-fearing children are a must.’
"Hast denn die Rute auch bei dir?" ‘And is that cane there by your side?’
Ich sprach: "Die Rute, die ist hier; ‘The cane’s there too,’ I did reply;
doch für die Kinder nur, die schlechten, but only for those, those naughty ones,
die trifft sie auf den Teil, den rechten.’   who have it applied to their backsides.’
Christkindlein sprach: "So ist es recht! The Christ-child spoke: ‘Then that’s all right!
So geh mit Gott, mein treuer Knecht!"

My loyal servant, go with God this night!’
Von drauß' vom Walde komm ich her; From out the forest I now appear;
ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr! To proclaim that Christmastide is here!
Nun sprecht, wie ich's hier drinnen find! Now speak, what is there here to be had?
Sind's gute Kind sind's böse Kind?

Are there good children, are there bad?


  1. Wonderful! Wunderbar! Danke, Thank you. Frohliche Weinachten. Mary

  2. I like that the sender explained about the New Year greeting (which sounds rather fun!)


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