Word of the Week: Schrottwichteln

Dec 19, 2014

Schrottwichteln Enlarge image (© Germany.info / Nicole Glass) If you're American, you've probably heard of "Secret Santa" or "White Elephant" gift exchanges. In Germany, however, we have what's called Schrottwichteln, which basically means "the exchange of crap".

The holiday season is all about gift exchanges. Even if you're giving away junk - it's the thought that counts, right? In German schools, workplaces and social circles, people often organize a so-called Schrottwichteln. The word Schrott means "crap", "garbage" or "junk". Wichteln is the organized exchange of gifts during the holiday season. So people who participate in Schrottwichteln essentially give each other things they don't want themselves - like that ugly Christmas sweater they received from their grandmother or an overly fancy candleholder for which they have no use. Often times, they will regift an item or contribute a gag gift. It is not uncommon for these gifts to be wrapped up in newspaper, rather than gift wrap - anything to make it look more like junk.

When people organize a Schrottwichteln, they will often set a limit on the value of the item - perhaps 5, 10, 15 or 20 Euros. Participants usually have a few days to decide on a gift - and will often search for the ugliest, funniest or most useless possible item they can think of. Sometimes Schrottwichteln organizers will choose a "winner" - a gift that is the most worthless of all.

Those who participate in Schrottwichteln parties do so for the holiday spirit and the humor associated with it. And if the gift they receive is perfectly useless, they may regift it the following Christmas at another Schrottwichteln party.

Schrottwichteln Enlarge image (© Germany.info / Nicole Glass) Here at the German Embassy, we had our very own Schrottwichteln party this afternoon. Among the gifts were a colorful vase, a book shelf, an old children's board game, scarves, a lunch box, a used jacket, a sack of rice and a potato. Needless to say, many of us ended up with items we never thought we needed!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

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