Notes on German Culture

A lot of German customs and practices…for example Kindergarten and the Christmas Tree…were adopted here in the US, but Mothers Day is the opposite.

Mothers Day will be celebrated in Germany this year on May 12th, just as it is here in the United Sates. A lot of German customs and practices…for example Kindergarten and the Christmas Tree…were adopted here in the US, but Mothers Day is the opposite. It started as an American holiday, officially first celebrated in 1914, and soon thereafter in 1922 it began to be celebrated as Muttertag in Germany.


But it was not until 1933 that Muttertag was declared an official holiday in Germany. This happened when the National Socialists came to power in 1933 and they immediately elevated the importance of Mothers Day and the value of family cohesiveness. Having children was encouraged and honored with annual postage stamps and even an official medal was awarded to mothers…the Mutterkreuz, issued in three grade levels, depending on how many children a mother brought into the world. Cynics nicknamed the medal “Karnickelorden”, or Order of the Rabbit, but nevertheless, the idea of the medal was to express love and gratitude to mothers and make them feel special.

After World War II, the German holiday became more unofficial… one that took on the cards and flowers elements of the American Mothers Day. On Muttertag people thank their mothers for everything they do, say good wishes, and give them flowers and presents. Children compliment their moms with cards and also give her small presents and unexpected surprises. But what mothers most appreciate is having their children at home or visiting on Mother’s Day, enjoying the time together and having a wonderful meal together.

The image that I posted here is an example of a German vintage Mother’s Day card, featuring a mother with her baby on a moonlit night, reciting an old goodnight poem: “Kindlein mein, schlaf nur ein….Weil die Sternlein kommen…..Und der Mond kommt auch schon…..Wieder angeswommen…..Eia, Wiege, wiege mein……Schlaf nur, Kindlein, schlaf nur ein”………Rough translation: “My little baby please fall asleep …. Because the little stars are coming ….. And also the moon is coming…again floating by …..Alas, rock, rock my baby …… my baby sleep, just fall asleep ”

On this Mothers Day I will be fondly remembering my own mother and our celebrations in the past, wishing I could once again say: Happy Mothers Day and thank you Ma for everything.

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