Dirty Birthday to you!

Sockenkranz found close to Verden

Bad Bederkesa, Niedersachsen, Deutschland, September 2011

Read in German

A birthday is a special event in Bad Bederkesa. It does not even have to be a fiftieth. Traditionally the different birthdays are celebrated with different rituals. Depending on the region there are different traditions for birthday celebrations. Some of these traditions change from village to village, others even from street to street.

16 years: By the sixteenth birthday it is allowed to drink alcohol in Germany – at least beer, wine and champagne. The celebrant’s friends pour beer and flour on top of his or her head. That is why most of the 16 years olds do not wear their newest but their oldest clothes on their birthdays.

18 years: When somebody turns eighteen he or she gets “baptized” with eggs and flour by their friends. As by the sixteenth birthday it is hard to wash and brush the hair afterwards and who does not have to cut it can be happy. Both traditions are used less because it is an unnecessary use of food and drinks and it is hard to clean both, floor and person with clothes, afterwards.

25 years: By the twentyfifth


birthday unmarried women are seen as “old boxes“and men as “old socks“. That is why their friends collect all their old socks for the birthday boy and used boxes, especially empty packages of cigarettes for the birthday girl weeks before. The night before the birthday the celebrant’s friends, relatives and neighbors meet and nod all the boxes or socks on a string. This string is called Sockenkranz (with socks for men) or Schachtelkranz (with boxes for women). Some of them also have some small bottles with liquor hidden. It is hung around the door and the garden fence in the late evening and by midnight the friends wake up the celebrant who invites them all for some drinks.

30 years: The tradition

Old socks are collected – to give them as a present to other old socks.

of sweeping the cathedral’s stairs is originally coming from Bremen. Unmarried thirty years old men shall get used to useless work that they will have to do in the hereafter if they had not made it to reproduce themselves in life on earth. Women have to clean door handles instead. In Bad Bederkesa there is no cathedral so they do their traditions wherever it is space enough. The birthday boy’s friends, family and neighbors collect bottle caps and straw to throw it on the floor. The birthday boy has to sweep it all on a pile while his friends keep disturbing his work. He has to go on sweeping until a virgin kisses him. Unmarried women clean door handles by their thirtieth birthday over and over again. Friends, family and neighbors put greasy and sticky creams like honey or shoe polish on the handles to make it harder to clean them. This tradition is used little less within the time.

In some areas unmarried forty-year olds have to ride a donkey backwards because they are officially “old donkeys” by then who still have not made it to find a wife. One should think that marrying young helps to escape from these traditions but the crazy disguises and embarrassing duties are hardly worth the effort.

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  1. Héctor says:

    This story sure gave me some interesting ideas that I can later on apply with my friends in México! Thanks for sharing. Bon Voyage y cuídense mucho.

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