Snowy winters, hot summers, colorful leaves in fall and the first flowers of spring. The seasons in Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have their own peculiarities. But German seasons are about so much more than the weather. While you can’t always count on stable temperatures, every season comes with its own special holidays and traditions that give the year a sort of structure.
If you’re learning German, seasonal vocabulary is a great place to start. After all, talking about the weather is a social custom that transcends language. And you may impress your new German acquaintances when you remark in disbelief: “Schnee im Sommer?” (“Snow in summer?”).
So, join us on a journey through the four seasons in German, where we’ll teach you some useful vocabulary and explain what makes German seasons so special.
The four seasons in German
Before we get into the peculiarities of each season, let’s learn some vocabulary for the seasons and months in German. Note that all of the four seasons are masculine nouns and thus take the masculine definite article (der) in German.
|die Jahreszeit (singular)die Jahreszeiten (plural)||seasonseasons|
The months in German
The German-speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland all lie in the temperate zone of the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, between the tropics and the polar region. This means that the typical year begins with Schnee und Eis (snow and ice), especially in the alpine parts of these countries. While you can usually go skiing (Ski fahren) in Southern Germany in winter, you may not encounter much snow in the middle and northern parts of the country.
Winter months in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: Von Dezember bis März (from December to March)
Important winter holidays
Advent: Every Sunday during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, Advent is celebrated. German families often keep a traditional Adventskranz (Advent wreath) and light one candle every Sunday before the big festivities.
Nikolaus: It’s said that those who’ve been on their best behavior will find some sweets and little presents in their shoe if they remember to put it outside on the night before Nikolaus. The holiday takes place on December 6.
Weihnachten (Christmas Eve): This will come as a surprise to many English speakers, but Christmas is celebrated on December 24 in German-speaking countries, rather than on the following day. Families come together, share a big meal and exchange presents underneath the Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree).
Silvester (New Year’s Eve): Silvester is celebrated with fireworks and specific German New Year’s traditions. Make sure to watch Dinner for One (1963) not once, but a few times during the night to get the full experience.
Snow is melting, temperatures are climbing, es wird wärmer (it’s getting warmer) – spring is here! Even though the year starts cold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, temperatures finally start to rise by the middle of March. The German word for spring (Frühling) comes from the fact that spring happens early in the year. The German word früh means “early” in English.
Spring months in Germany, Austria, Switzerland: Von März bis Mai (from March to May)
Important springtime holidays
Weltfrauentag (International Women’s Day): International Women’s Day is celebrated all over Germany, but it’s only an official bank holiday in Berlin.
Ostern (Easter): This holiday takes place on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Some children enjoy an Easter egg hunt in the garden, where the hidden prizes are typically eggs made of chocolate.
Tag der Arbeit (Labor Day): May 1 is a bank holiday in German-speaking countries. There are a lot of music festivals, as well as traditional Tanz in den Mai (Dance into May) parties.
Pack your Badehose (swimming trunks) and a Pullover (sweater). German summers can get hot. Sometimes temperatures reach up to 30°C, but they might also rapidly fall to 15°C. Heatwaves are just as common as colder rainy weeks during the summer, so it’s a common habit for people in German-speaking countries to keep their jackets and coats on hand throughout the whole year.
Similar to most other countries, this is also the season for Urlaub (vacation). Even though the bias might suggest that most Germans travel to Mallorca, the most popular destinations are Austria and the Netherlands.
Important summer holidays
Nationalfeiertag Schweiz (Swiss National Day): On August 1, the Swiss celebrate the union of Switzerland, which dates back as far as 1291.
Fall is the season of Germany’s famous Oktoberfest, which attracts millions of visitors each year. It’s also the time of the Zwiebel-Look (onion look), an expression referring to the layering of clothes that’s necessary due to frequent fluctuations in temperature.
Important fall holidays
Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest does not actually take place in October. This Munich-based festival of beer starts in mid-September and ends in the beginning of October.
Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day): On October 3, Germany celebrates its reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This day became a national holiday in 1990.
Österreichischer Nationalfeiertag (Austrian National Day): Austria celebrates its political independence on October 26.
Fasching/Karneval (Carnival): On November 11, at 11:11 a.m. carnival season begins and runs through February. The German city of Cologne is especially famous for its costume parties.
The seasons in German: Culture and Climate
While the weather of the four seasons can be unpredictable at times, German holidays give the year its own structure. The German-speaking countries are all located in the temperate zone, which means that changes in temperature are to be expected, but they rarely reach extremes. If you’re planning to visit Germany or would like to live there, make sure to bring several layers of clothing and try the Zwiebel-Look.