April 4, 2011

Things You Didn't Know Were German

(Ok, except for you genius know-it-all's out there, you knew. We know you knew. No need to rub it in, Einstein)

While doing research for a recent post, As German As..., I came across so many things that I had no idea where German or that I never knew had their roots in German traditions.

It isn't hard to imagine that America and Germany shares a lot of similar customs and inventions. After all, roughly 17% of Americans come from German decent.

So I thought I would compile a list of the most interesting tidbits that I found while scouring the internet. Kept them, at least tried to, short and sweet.

Here goes, "Things You Never Knew Were German":

(You can skim. It's long, I don't blame ya!)

Starting off with holiday traditions and figures. Our modern day Christmases seem to be deeply rooted in German customs.

*Nutcracker (both story and figurine)
The carving of nutcrackers began as a small, cottage industry in the wooded regions of rural Germany. They were, and are, known for their intricate detail and decoration.
Also, before the 'nutcracker' became synonymous with the Russian ballet by Tschaikovsky (and also synonymous with the ever hilarious short videos on America's Funniest Videos, yeah right), the Nutcracker was the hero of an early 19th century story by Berlin's E.T.A. Hoffman. The story was later adapted for the famous ballet.

Of course, had to pick the house with the German Sheppard with it! (Sources 1, 2)
*Gingerbread Houses
The Gingerbread house was first noted in the Grimm's fairytale Hansel and Gretel and followed in a little known German opera by the same title. The first showing of the Opera took place just days before Christmas. Because of this, it became a holiday tradition in German Opera houses to build miniature replicas of the gingerbread house from the story. The tradition then spread to bakeries and eventually to homes.  

*Advent Calendars
The origins of this Christmas tradition come from the German Lutherans as early as the beginning of the 19th century. The calendar started off simple; a written way to count down the days until Christmas. Eventually, lighting 24 candles for the 24 days became popular. And very early in the 20th century, Gerhard Lang was credited with printing the first Advent calendar. Several years later, he decided to add hinging doors that would open to reveal the date or a Bible scripture. It wasn't until after WWII that the calendars began to be filled with candies and treats for the days before Christmas.
(sources 1, 2)
*Christmas Tree
The tradition of decorated the Tannenbaum (hello, German word) dates back to the 16th century. Although it is documented that trees were erected in present day Estonia and Latvia in the 15th century, it was the Germans who really started decorating the trees. They adorned the fir trees with wax candles (yeah, sounds safe), fruits and trinkets. This tradition remained confined to the upper Rheinland region of Germany for some time, until the idea eventually began to spread throughout the Christian world when royal families from neighboring countries got wind of it. 
Hallmark, you can thank Germany for the bazillions of ornaments you sell every year.

Many modern day Easter traditions are also believed to have been started in Germany:

*Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny, at least as we know it today, first appeared in 16th century writings in Germany. In the 1700s, Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought the tradition of the Easter Bunny with them to the new world. Their children believed that if they were well behaved, the Easter bunny would come and lay eggs and treats into nest the children made out of upturned hats and bonnets.

*Easter Eggs Hunts

While evidence on this isn't as firm as some of the others, it is believed that the tradition of hiding Easter eggs was first started in Southern Germany. While the legend of the Easter bunny laying eggs in the grass had been around for sometime, the Germans decided to go all out and actually have children hunt for the eggs in hard to reach and see places. Leave it to the Germans to step it up a notch or two!

(sources 1, 2)
A tradition that I think has been lost in America for sometime. Look at this photo. Really, are we even hiding the eggs anymore or what!?

Anyways, moving on from traditions:

*Gummi Bears
I don't know about ya'll, but before we moved to Germany, I always thought of Gummi Bears as an American product. The sweet treats were invented in the 1920's by Hans Riegel, Sr when he started the Haribo company. Not only do they produce the world famous Gummi Bears, and all other chewy candy under the Haribo name, but the company also makes all Trolli brands of gummy candy, like the popular gummi worms.
Gummi Bears! Bouncing here and there and everywhere! (source)
*Prefabricated Houses
Ha, take that one, you 'American white trash stereotypers!" The pre fab home - oh come on, let's just call them like they are - the trailer home was invented by Warner Sell of Berlin. After WWII, there was a need for places to house the U.S. forces occupying the area. Sell's company manufactured over 5000 prefabricated houses and the soldier boys lived it up in high style!
I even choose a fancy one to show ya'll! (source)
(and hey, I am not judging, there are some really nice PreFab homes out there, I know!)

*Wedding March/Here Comes the Bride

First known as the "Treulich geführt", the song that is forever linked to brides in white gowns, was composed in 1850 by Richard Wagner for his opera Lohengrin. Although the song is now traditionally played as the bride makes her way down the aisle, it was sung (yes, it even has words to go along) in the opera after the ceremony by the members of the bridal party. You might get your bridesmaid to agree with you on the style of her dress, but good luck convincing her to sing you a song in German!


*Pretty much everything Disney has done
From cashing in on Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White to name a few, to building a close replica of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Disney movies and theme parks have relied heavily on German influence. But most of you smarty pants probably already knew that :)
Pretty dang similar!
*Traditional items at an "American" picnic
Just about all the ingredients to make a perfect 'All-American' picnic come from German origins. There is the hot dog, or a Frankfurter, a pork sausage that finds its origins in 13th century Germany. Then, you can't forget the condiments. Ketchup, which was developed by Heinz, a son of German immigrants, and Mayonnaise, developed by Hellman, a German immigrants. Then of course there is the Potato Salad. Although there are many different versions to this dish, one of the most popular variations is the traditional German Potato Salad. And happens to be my favorite as well :)

It wouldn't even feel like the 4th of July without these babies! (source)

*Light Bulb
Poor Heinrich Göbel. He is credited with developing the incandescent light bulb over 25 years before Thomas Edison had his bright idea. There was just one little thing Göbel forgot to do....apply for a patent. (Although, I will have to admit with this one, that he was born and grew up in Germany but was in the US by the time he developed his idea).
No Patent? Not so bright of an idea. (source)
*The Perm (Permanent Wave)
German hairdresser Charles Nessler invented a very early version of the perm. He used a mixture of cow urine and water to achieve those bouncy, poodle-like waves. Smellin' good ladies! Before coming up with just the right mix of harsh and damaging chemicals, he ran test trials on his wife. Two of which burnt off most of her hair and resulted in scalp burns. Call me crazy, but I think that might be grounds for divorce.

Thanks for giving me a dog's hairstyle in the 4th grade, Germany! (source)

Yes, I know, long enough! But there were just too many to choose from. Now, the last one. A bonus for all my Texan and Southern-At-Heart readers.

*Chicken Fried Steak
Although the origins about this delicious, plate-swamping treat vary (I mean, we can't even agree about who or where it was first served in the Lone Star State) most sources say that it is attributed to German and Austrian immigrants in Texas who brought over the recipe for Weiner Schnitzel. Of course, American took it up a notch and really fried the heck out of that sucker and smothered it in gravy. It is believed that it started being referred to as Chicken Fried Steak, and not Wiener Schnitzel, during the war with Germany.
Mouth watering, heart clogging goodness (source)
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  1. .. I wonder if they would be some noticeable country with inventions once Germany and the Czech republic were one. I can´t help myself feeling like the most of the things in the world come from the central Europe, hah.

    PS: Even the idea of McDonald´s was made by a Czech immigrant but I better won´t try to attack your pride. ;)

  2. You had me at Gummi Bears. I am considering moving to Germany. For good. Or maybe even America coz well that would be almost the same, no?!

  3. What the hell is a Chicken Fried Steak? Is it chicken or steak?

  4. This is really interesting Linds!! Most of those things seem so "American" to me ... like the perm and fried chicken haha.

  5. @Susanne - well, you can keep the claim for the Mickey D's :) haha. A lot of things do come from both of those countries, for sure!
    @Apfel - Haha, so good, huh!? If I had to choose....Germany in the summer and Texas in the winter :)
    @Tony - WHAT?! You have to try you some good ol fashioned Chicken Fried Steak. It is a thin piece of beef, fried up chicken style. So good!
    @KY - thanks man! They really seemed American to me too. And in someways still do, haha. Deffo the perm, cfs, and the trailer homes.

  6. I knew a lot of those, but not all! I find this totally interesting!!! What a fun post! Now the chicken fried steak.... never would have guessed!

  7. I love this feature and you didn't go too long at all! I'm having my chicken vegetable soup tonight but man oh man, do I want chicken fried steak instead!

  8. Awesome post, like the first part, so many great things that turn out to be German.
    Thanks for the inspiration in your previous post, btw.

  9. Gummi bears, gummi bears! The best thing I brought back from a recent trip to Berlin was a small, but rather expensive box of chocolate covered gummi bears. De-lish! Those clever Germans :)

  10. I did NOT notice that all the Disney castles look like German castles!!

  11. German stuff is AWESOME!!! I thought Haribo Gummi's were Asian just because of the name, lol. Yes, I'm sheltered (obviously) and now for lunch I want a hot dog and a chicken fried steak, lovely :P

  12. i didn't realize all those things were based off of german tradition. interesting :) i'm one of those 17% that come from german decent in the states. haha

  13. Great idea for a post. I did know some of items on your list but the majority were new to me. I too am one of the 17% that come from German heritage.

  14. Loved this post and had to snicker on the Perm Wave part; just had this discussion recently regarding who started this hair torture first, Germans, French or Americans. Chemically, yes, it was the Germans followed by Marcel Grateau's invention of the Marcel Iron (which I use in the salon) in the late 1800's. An American, Marjorie Joyner invented a horrific perm machine in the 1920's. It was an Electric Chair for the hair...ghastly creation!
    And, ever since, women have been destroying their hair by over-using hot rollers, curling irons and flat irons, lol

    Have not had a Chicken Fried Steak since I was in Texas, skateteeighthundred years ago...but, it was delish!

    Enjoy your day,


  15. @Meg O. - well miss smarty pants, haha, jk! But chicken fried steak, the best one, right!?
    @Mollie - oh I would kill for some CFS right about now! When I was researching online I saw that it was the official meal of Oklahoma or something like that. Awesome! Thanks, I was afraid it did run too long ;)
    @Patti - well thanks Patti! And I loved your post you did on "easter eggs" the other day. That was great!
    @ladyliberty - in my head alllll day! Those sound so yummy!
    @Andrea - those copies, haha
    @An Irish - oh yeah, they got some great things. And I didn't know about Haribo either! Haha, enjoy your 'German' lunch
    @Laura - Oh nice! Well glad I could teach you something new, especially being one of those 17% :)
    @my3 - thanks!
    @debbie - well thanks, I really enjoyed getting it all together!
    @Patty - I read about Marcel when I was looking into this. He wasn't smart enough to use urine though, was he, haha. So gross! Electric Chair for hair indeed! :)

  16. Ha! What a great post. I love your blog. This is my first time here but your warm writing style has ensnared me already! I'm your new follower.


  17. Wow!! I didn't know about the wedding march.

    I did know about a few (after taking GCSE and AS Level German). Also the pre fab houses were a little thing I picked up in GCSE history. We studied WW2 alot!

    Interesting post!

  18. Wow. What a great post! I told ya, I always learn a lot of stuff from you. teehee. This is great! Thanks!

    A Ladybug's Life

  19. I loved this post-- very interesting! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  20. lol! <3 it! especially the part about cow urine and water for the original perm idea. ummmm ... who thought that was a good idea?


    have a great day!

  21. Very entertaining blog. I'm going to send one of my friends a link to it, she may be interested as although she's English, her partner is German and son is half German.
    Visiting from no rules blog hop.

  22. @Sarah - well thanks, what a nice comment :) I am glad you stopped by
    @Missy - I am really impressed you knew about the PreFab homes! You do know your WWII or post WWII stuff! :)
    @Brownbugz - you know, just always learning the folk, haha. Glad you liked!
    @Sarah K - well thanks for stopping by too :)
    @Kimberly - So gross, huh!? No idea, I have no idea how he originally found out it curled hair. Did he stand under a cow?! Gross.
    @Jewel - that would be great, I hope she likes it. Thanks for stopping by!

  23. wow
    selbst als deutscher wusste ich nicht daß das alles von uns erfunden wurde :)

  24. I love these kinds of lists! That perm - wow, makes you wonder the first victim of so many 'inventions'.

  25. Okay, I totally thought I already posted a comment, but I don't see it. Do you see it? Maybe I'm going crazy.

    Anyway, what I said in my imaginary comment is how much I loved this post. Especially the parts about the fairy tales (those dang Disney thieves), the trailers (clever German engineers), and country fried steak (would have NEVER thought this...but YUM).

    My dad used to work for a company that required he travel to Germany. He would bring me back Steiff stuffed animals. Because I'm a sucker for stuffed animals, I always thought Germany sounded like a wonderful place. As an adult, I realize they have more than just beautiful, hand-crafted toys to appreciate...like beer.

    Great and fun post! Thanks for sharing :)

  26. Ummm...I have a perm...

    Totally kidding;) Have I told you how much I love these posts? Because I do!

  27. @Mac - Wow, so ein Kompliment! Es freut mich, dass es dir gefällt! :)
    @Happy - well thanks! Ouch, totally, I feel bad for those 'volunteers' for inventions like the perm!
    @Katie - so weird! I didn't see it. Awesome! I am glad you liked it :) Haha, you can play with the German toys and drink beer. Best of both worlds, lol.
    @Shalyn - don't you fool me like that! haha. Does anyone still get perms!? I thought they outlawed that kind of damage :) Thanks girl!

  28. haha LOVED this post. I had no idea about the perm and the wedding march!

  29. wow I did not know some of that... I love Ludwig's castles they're amazing

  30. So I can thank Germany for my wicked bad permed hair as a child in the 80s. Thanks, Germany.

  31. Thanks for a very enlightening post. Even as a German I did not know about the wedding march!

  32. OMG! What a lesson. That is some interesting stuff. Don't judge those poor little eggs not being hidden because, we had to do the same thing for our little ones too. Brings back good memories.

  33. This is such great stuff. I married into a German family and they didn't know all of this stuff! I love it and the pics are great too. I'm following from the hop. Come visit me back!

    Michelle @ Things Sent My Way

  34. Man, they got a lock on all the delicious food!

  35. The perm and jelly beans are german!? Who knew!

    I wanted to let you know of a meme I have on my blog tomorrow, or tonight, tomorrow where you love about sharing specific blog posts for people to read and stumble, digg or share however you like. I'd love for you to check it out. Its every Tuesday. This post would be a great one to share on the linky!


  36. Ha! Sounds like we've got a lot to thank Germany for - foodwise, at least! How would our lives be different without the Easter Bunny?!?!

  37. Love this list. I did know Gummi bears were german thanks to my grandparents. Didn't know about prefab homes and perms though.

  38. @Katherina - well thanks! I am glad you liked it :) I was shocked about those too!
    @G - aren't they beautiful! I was lucky enough to see Neuschwanstein this year. Blew me away!
    @Lesley - Haha, no kidding. Mine too, mine too :)
    @Bristolvol - very cool, glad I could enlighten!
    @Marjory - Haha, my mom would have me practice Easter Egg hunting so I was ready for the big day. Really, I think it was just a time killer. Funny though!
    @Things - Too cool! I am glad you and they liked it. Always neat to see if German descendants know all this stuff (cause no way I did!)
    @Copyboy - seriously! They do have some very yummy things here.
    @Heather - Very cool Heather! Thanks for letting me know, I am headed over there right now :)
    @Red - ??? I don't know. I never said it would be different. But I know some kiddos who might be sad :)
    @Ms Sarah - Well thanks Sarah! I think I find something new here everyday, that is for sure!

  39. This is very interesting, and informative. Although I must say that my Oklahoman heart is broken that manufactured homes didn't originate here :( Not entirely tho as I'm originally from the west coast :D And did you fail to mention that the oldest brewery in the world is in Germany?

  40. gummi bears, ginger bread houses, andddd hot dogs. this post had me hungry.haha. Always love your stuff!

  41. I'm part German, and I had NO idea about most of the stuff on this list! LOL I love that I can learn something new (or in this case, many new things!) by visiting a single blog a day! So the next time my hubby gets on my case because I spend too much time blog hopping, I can tell him I'm expanding my knowledge! This list will prove that :) Thanks for sharing! I'm a new follower to your blog. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on mine :)

  42. aha- now I know who to thank for gummi bears and who to blame for perms!

    You know I love these posts, Lindsey, keep it up!

    And if you really want to up the ante? Anyone know why the heck the easter "bunny" lays eggs? am I missing something? Shouldn't it be an easter "hen" or something?

  43. You are right, I didn't know that any of these things were from Germany! I love Advent Calenders, so thank you Germany, thank you very much!

  44. I just gave you the Stylish Blogger Award. Check it out from my post. Happy Tuesday!

  45. Perms and Gummy Bears? Heck yes Germany! However, they can keep their damn advent calendars. I don't know why but those things have always annoyed me. It's irrational that they annoy me, but they do.

  46. @Andy - haha, sorry to break the news to you. And yes interesting about the brewery. Maybe I will save it for another post :)
    @Katrina - too cool! I am glad I could teach a German descendant some things she never knew, haha. I will try to use that excuse with my husband too, lol. I am glad you liked the post too. And thanks for stopping by my blog as well :)
    @Meri - well thanks girl! Ohhh, good idea for a post. I read a little about it while 'researching' but didn't get anything too good. Hmmm, might have to look into it some more :)
    @Sarah - Haha, Germany did bring some pretty good things to America, didn't they!?
    @Brownbugz - What!?! Well thanks love! I can't wait to check it out. You are awesome!
    @Jordan - Haha, I don't think I have ever heard someone say that advent calendars annoy them. But yes, Gummi bears, good beer, pretzels, chicken fried steak. A big Danke Schön Germany!

  47. You forgot to mention David Hasselhoff, he's a 2 for 1 deal with his 80s poodle perm!! Back in 1795 the senate held a vote on what the official language of the US should be, English beat German by one vote. How different things could've been, really enjoyed the post.

  48. I like your post!! I grew up in Switzerland and my dad is german - therefore, I'm half German. I live in Canada now, so I guess that's why I think the name of your blog is neat...anyway, I didn't know about the Perm!!

    Found you through Tasty Tuesday and am your newest follower - feel free to follow back. :-)


  49. These are really interesting, I knew Germany had born a lot of things but a lot of these are surprising.

  50. Damn, that is a hell of a list. The one that shocked me the most was the pre-fabed houses. I don't know why, but it did.

  51. That's a nice list... I do love my gummi bears and hot dogs.

    Thanks for checking out my blog, I am now following you back! Have a great night!


  52. What does it say about me that with the exception of perms and chicken fried steak, I knew that each and every item was German?
    Okay, it says that I'm 1/2 German. Ich spreche deutsch auch! Aber nicht sehr gut, ICH gerade gelernt werden nosy ... o

  53. I will never understand why it is that we cannot get decent german sausages here. It's two whole countries away, that's it! Thank you for your kind words on my blog.

  54. Chicken Fried Steak...seriously, who knew?

    Food is fun to track down the roots to. For example, Spaghetti has it's roots in Asia (where noodles were invented), and America (Tomatoes are a native American food). :-)

  55. That last one threw me for a loop. As a native Texan, it must have been hard for you to type. I would have sworn Chicken Fried Steak originated in the Lone Star state. I've had many a Texas-born friend tell me so! Here comes the bride and prefab houses were also a surprise.

  56. A few of these I did not know were German.
    Very interesting. My mother's from Austria, so I love the Bavarian countries!
    I'm a new follower from the blog hop. Hope you can hop by and visit me:

  57. Well there's my fun facts for the day! Very interesting...although i'm with Tony and didn't know what Chicken Fried Steak was. Sounds...appetising! :P

  58. Wow! Thats some great stuff I didn't know. As a Disney fan, I think I have to pay Germany a visit now! (after I go to Disneyland of course)

  59. great article! It's good to know your roots!

    ilike the shot of the castle and Disney replica next to each other!

  60. What a fun blog! I can't wait to explore it more. Thank you for stopping by mine!




Whoomp, there it is!