Ostensibly, it has come to signify a Sunday gathering. A more direct translation might be, “an early drink”. Whereas, Shoppen means a pint, or glass, and Früh means early, or morning.

Practical Definition

As with much of the German culture, it varies from region to region. That variability represents German culture as much as the gathering, itself. Sunday is an honored time in Germany when one spends time with family, relaxing at home, or enjoying food and drink at a cafe or tavern. Frühschoppen, originally limited to males who frequented a tavern on a Sunday to discuss current events or politics, has grown to be a gathering of friends and family after church, and in some cases part of large celebration. However, especially in more rural parts of Germany, it is still a male dominated activity (and in those cases, the wife usually stays home to cook a larger meal – a “Sunday Supper”, to put it in American vernacular).

In southern parts of Germany, notably Bavaria, Frühschoppen involves three main components comprised of pretzels, wheat beer, and sausage. These three items are representative of German culture and history.

As with many cultures, modernization and inclusion of other ideas and cultures has led to endless varieties of how Frühschoppen is celebrated. One may find more wine than beer is some locations, cold-cuts rather than sausage, and for some, vegetarian and vegan styled Frühschoppen.

Traditional Components of Frühschoppen

Beir (Beer)

While Frühschoppen varies from region to region, and over time has evolved, on integral part involves Beer. Beer is not only a part of the cultural make-up of Germany, it is a celebration of what it is to be German!

How important is Beer to Germans? In 1871, upon unification of Germany, Bavaria only agreed to join the union of Germany if their “beer purity laws” (das Reinheitsgebot) were applied to the entire nation

While there are many theories as to how, where, and when the initial offerings of Beer took place, it is widely accepted that beer did become quite popular during the early “Middle Ages” by monks. Monks, in order to follow the rules of Lent, used beer as a drink that would provide sustenance as much as pleasure.

Beer not only has a history with roots in Catholicism or religion, but also German politics. Früshoppen, and the drinking of beer, mirrors much of that history. The gathering of people to drink beer often involves political conversation. In history, it was very well known that whomever had the political office also had a hand in the beer business. The adage goes as this, ”He who has his hand on the levers of power, also has his thumb in the people's beer mug.1

Much of the beer in the morning culture, as associated with Früshoppen, has spread throughout Europe and generally gets called “the second breakfast”. For many Germans, especially on days besides Sunday, the idea of a second breakfast with a Weiss Beir, is no more different than an American having a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary with their breakfast or brunch. Beer is to Germany as rice is to Japan, wine is to France, or pasta is to Italy.

Brezel (Pretzel)

Pretzel, or pretzel shaped baked bread, has been found in Southern Germany since the early 12th century. However, it was in the 16th century when the eating pretzels became associated with Easter – Germans at them as part of their Good Friday meal. The three holes are said to represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Pretzels are comprised of flour and water which meant they could be eaten during lent, when Catholics are forbidden from eating several foods including meat eggs or dairy products (although this varies throughout history and from region to region). As well, Pretzels became associated with Easter; pretzels were hidden on Easter morning akin to the hiding of Easter Eggs for American Children.

The phrase of couples said to be “tying the knot” has its roots when the families of marrying couples “tied the knot” of a pretzel. The Pretzel’s loops stood for everlasting love.

Wurst (Sausage)

It is widely accepted that Sausage was invented within the Germanic lands during the 15th century, notably as a peasant food. As with the aforementioned beer and pretzel, the Sausage is a food that is a microcosm of Germany history and culture. It was born out of necessity and has grown to resemble German identity.

Traditionally, Weisswurst (white sausage), is served, but this is mostly found in Bavarian regions and rarely adhered to in modern times.

While many know about Germany's beer purity laws, few know that over the course of history, Germany has enacted Sausage purity laws. Germans take their sausages seriously; they do not desire sausages with cereal, filler, or additives.

What do the three traditional components represent?

Traditional components of sausage, beer, and pretzels provides a mirror to the past for the German culture. Simple foods that peasants could make, often motivated by a religion, in order to come together.

Germany, for much of its history, did not enjoy political unity. What they did have was cultural unity. While many regions within the Germanic lands, they shared a passion for language, food, and desire for political and economic freedom. The modern Frühschoppen might involve bands, new foods, and more, but the event has its roots in a long German history.

Videos regarding Früshoppen

Interview (in English) with a German gentleman about Frühschoppen (Length: 2 min, 3 seconds).

News piece (in Deutsch – but easily understood) of a slightly more elaborate, large scale, Frühschoppen (Length: Over 7 minutes)


Bibliography, Additional Links and Additional Videos

ger/101/2012/fall/matt_p.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/23 22:33 by mlpowers
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