Salt and Bread as House-Warming Gifts?


Let’s start this article with this scenario: Two female friends from Bavaria, who have known each other since college, decide to open a restaurant in a rural community in Hesse, where a few of their former college mates and cousins are living. They purchase this small building that has a restaurant on the first floor and an apartment on the second floor. After two weeks of moving and renovations, they have a house-warming party where they invite friends and family, as well as some helpful neighbors and even their first customers. While many they know give them some useful items for their home and business as well as some wine and food, the two girlfriends become astonished, when half the people invited give them as gifts……


Before going a bit further into the topic, let’s have a look at the symbols of the commodities we do know. Salt had been known as the common commodity for trade, having been used during the Middle Ages as a leverage of power. Salt has many uses, as seen in the examples mentioned in Saxony-Anhalt and in particular, Halle (Saale).  In Christian terms, the bread symbolized the body of Jesus Christ and the wine as his blood- both taken at communion. Gold and resin were symbols of birth and happiness, as interpreted during the Birth of Jesus.

But the concept of bread and salt as house-warming gifts are, believe it or not, customary in Germany. I learned about this concept through a student in one of my English classes, who received just that for his home in eastern Thuringia and mentioned that this is the traditional norm. While in normal households one is greeted with wine, food and the basic necessities for the apartment, such as appliances, knick-knacks and perhaps a good candle light dinner (yes, I’ve heard of such stories), bread and salt seemed to be the normal house-warming gifts.

In fact, after doing some research on this, one can find this tradition in much of Germany. The reason is that bread symbolizes the full cupboards and the elimination of hunger, while salt represents the flavor in life. One cannot live a life without salt. It is unknown where the tradition originated from except to say that bread and salt have their symbolic presence in Slavic, Russian, Jewish and even Arabic Cultures, all of whom have similar meanings involving life, happiness and the avoidance of hunger. They all provide the newly occupied tenants with a starting point in life, where they can prosper from there.

Yet bread and salt are not the only gifts a person can give, especially if people deem the gifts as either unusual or even inappropriate. Other traditional gifts have been given to the new tenants, each of which has its own symbolic meaning, like the following below:

  • Sugar: Means “So your life shall always have sweetness”
  • Wine: Symbolizes the hope “That joy and prosperity may reign forever”…or…”That your family will never be thirsty”…or…”So you will always be of good cheer”
  • Honey: So that you may always enjoy the sweetness of life
  • Broom: “So your home may always be clean” or “To help sweep away any evil and bad luck”
  • Coin: “So you may dwell in good fortune”
  • Candle: “So that this house will always have light” or “So you may dwell in light and happiness”

In some traditions, especially in the rural areas, a house-warming tradition includes a cook-out and potluck dinner, where friends and neighbors bring something to share with the new tenants, most of it is homemade and from farms, such as canned goods, homemade jams and juices and smoked meat, but also goods made from wood that are useful for the household. Most of these traditions one will find in central and northern Germany, where the population is more sparse than the southern half.


While this tradition applies for new neighbors, it can also apply for newlyweds as well, as especially bread and salt represent an alliance that will never die of hunger or be boring. And when tying this in with being new neighbors in a small community, one already has established a network of friends and family that are a lifetime’s worth keeping. A sense of hope in an ever-changing environment. 🙂

When compared to the American tradition, one can consider house-warming gifts in Germany as a sign of openness and getting acquainted with new people. In America, house-warming gifts are mostly associated with the Welcome Wagon, where representatives pay a new tenant of a house a visit with a basket of flowers, broschures and infos on what to do in the community, and some small goods, as you can see in the video below:

The Welcome Wagon is not as popular today as it was in the 1970s and 80s, but some remnants of strangers stopping by for a visit are common in American culture today. Even a short visit to say hi from the new neighbors is not untypical and one that should not be considered rude:

To conclude, bread and salt do have a place in German culture and serve as a house-warming gift, however other gifts with similar meanings, as mentioned above, are just as common. They all have one meaning, which is to have a long and prosperous life, whether the two people are newly married or new neighbors or both. While other people prefer other more practical gifts to get the household started, one should not be surprised and disappointed if your next door neighbor gives you bread and salt as gifts. Each gift has a symbolic meaning which should be considered in a positive sense. With bread and salt, the tradition goes way back intime, and even if it is not practiced everywhere in Germany, they still consider the two commodities customary.  🙂


Germany Quiz Nr. 7: The Answers to the Quiz on Saxony-Anhalt


After doing some research on the things that are typical and stand out for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, many of you are wondering what the answers to the Guessing Quiz on the most sparsely populated state in Germany but also one with lots of surprises. Well, here are some facts that are worth thinking about:

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?   a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

ANS: e. all of them

  1. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:


ANS:  1. Halle (Saale)-232,470 

  1. Magdeburg- 232,306
  2. Dessau-Rosslau- 83,061
  3. Lutherstadt-Wittenberge- 46,621
  4. Halberstadt- 40,440
  5. Weissenfels- 39,918
  6. Bernburg- 33,633
  7. Merseburg- 33,317
  8. Naumburg (Saale)- 32,756
  9. Sangerhausen- 30,648
  10. Quedlinburg- 24,742
  1. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)
A.   Magdeburg: The World Clock Statue
B. Magdeburg: Hundertwasser House
C. Quedlinburg: Typical Fachwerk House
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D. Halle (Saale): The City Center, Cathedrals and Statue of Handel

IMGP8921E. Naumburg (Saale): City Hall


  1. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

ANS: False: The nearest Tatort episodes were taped in Leipzig and Hannover. Interesting Fact is that another police series Polizei 110 has its venue in Magdeburg


  1. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______).

ANS: False on BOTH counts. The slogan Frühaufsteher refers to people commuting to bigger cities for work during the week but have their residence in Saxony-Anhalt. It is easy to have a word-for-word translation for this slogan and refer this to the farmers getting up at 5:00am to start their work, yet it is not true in this case.  Most of the people in Saxony-Anhalt (farmers included) hate the slogan so much that after five years, it was removed from the highways this year.


  1. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

ANS: True for the first answer- Lutherstadt Eisleben. He was born there in 1483 and died there in 1546

True for the second answer. She was born in Lippendorf in Saxony. It’s located near Leipzig.

False for the third answer. She created the first handcrafted beer for Martin Luther (see article here)


  1. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

 ANS: A. Walter Gropius (* 1883) founded the Bauhaus University of Architecture in Dessau-Rosslau in 1919. Despite leaving his mark in architectural designs of his buildings and memorials, he emigrated to the US in 1934 after the Nazis attacked and condemned his architecture as a work of Marxism. He resided there until his death in 1969.


  1. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

ANS: Halle (Saale). Handel (* 1685; died 1759) was famous for the following pieces: Alexander’s Feast, Messiah, Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and others in the Baroque Era.


  1. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

ANS: False.  Bach was born in Eisenach (Thuringia) and died in Leipzig.


  1. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

ANS: Genscher, who established the FDP as a liberal party in East Germany, was born in Halle (Saale). He was an influential figure for the people of the former East Germany at the time of its reunification with West Germany. He died in 2016  in Wachtberg. The party itself was established in West Germany in 1948 and has been the longest running party on the German scene, having had members in the Bundestag for every year until 2013.


  1. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

ANS: False. Köhler coached Halle FC for eight years, yet his origin is in Chemnitz, where he is now head coach of Chemnitz FC (since March 2016)


  1. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

ANS: True. Halle achieved this in 2012/13 and Magdeburg in 2014/15.


  1. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

ANS: False. Only the SC Magdeburg has a men’s handball team in the premere league. The Halle Lions have a women’s basketball team in the premere league.


  1. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

 ANS: Hasselrödaer beer originates from Saxony-Anhalt and is brewed in Wenigerode


  1. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

 ANS:  Garley. Garley is not only a traditional soup for Saxony-Anhalt, but also the name of the oldest brand named  beer in the world, having been brewed in Saxony-Anhalt from 1314 until its closure in 2013.


  1. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

ANS: True. Consisting of a burro-shaped pastry filled with chocolate, the Nähstänge is a local specialty of Tagermünde, in northwestern Saxony-Anhalt.


  1. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

ANS:  This one consistes of potatoes, onions and eggs. More on the recipe here.


  1. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in Freyburg (in the Saale-Unstrut Region),  famous for the production of wine and sect  
  1. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

ANS: The Schierke Feuerstein is a half-bitter herbal liquor with 35% alcohol and is 70-proof. Best served cold and in combination to form long drinks, the beverage was developed by Willy Drube and the name was derived from the redness of the color of granite, located in the Harz Mountain region. Still exists today and highly recommended. 


  1. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

ANS: True. Salt is still being mined today in areas west and south of Halle (Saale) and has a lot of value as a mineral.


  1. Salt is used for what purposes?

ANS: Salt is used for spicing food, as an inhalant for colds and other ailments, and for various forms of physical and psychological therapy.


  1. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

ANS: Magdeburg 


  1. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

 ANS: All except Arendsee have at least one cathedral. Arendsee is a lake and resort town.


  1. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

ANS: One cathedral and 13 churches exist in Magdeburg. Before World War II the number of churches was 20.


25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know. (Click on the names of the cities for more information on the city’s bridges)

Magdeburg:  70+ 

Halle (Saale): 131

Quedlinburg: 20+

Zeitz: 15

Merseburg: 3- including the Leuna Arch Bridge, the stone arch bridge and the railroad overpass at the train station. 


26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Click here and scroll down to find the answers.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen


Check out sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for more on the bridges in Saxony-Anhalt, including those in Quedlinburg, Magdeburg and the Saale-Unstrut Region. In the meantime, onto the next German state…… 🙂


Christmas Market Tour 2015: Naumburg (Saale)


Naumburg (Saale), located in the southern part of Saxony-Anhalt between Leipzig and Weimar, has many unique features that are overlooked many times by tourists travelling thriough Germany. The town of 22,000 inhabitants has a cathedral (Naumburger Dom) destined to become a UNESCO site. Its historic city center, laden with houses dating back to the Baroque period, is located in the river valley where the Saale and Unstrut Rivers meet. It is in that region where one can find a pair of castles and one of the largest vineyards in Germany. The brand of its sect is named after Little Red Ridinghood (Rotkäppchen). Going west to Bad Kösen, a health spa and museum dedicated to Käthe Kruse dolls will attract a tourist wanting a quiet two weeks off, in addition to biking the Saale and Unstrut bike trails. Until most recently, it was a major junction for Fernverkehr (long distance trains) on the East-West axis Dresden/Leipzig- Frankfurt and the North-South axis Berlin-Munich.

The Regio-Train arriving at Naumburg Station: Now almost exclusively the Regio-bahn Station after its main meeting point for Fernverkehr was shifted to Erfurt.


Then there is the Christmas market.  Small and located in one place, the Marktplatz, one needs 10 minutes by bike (as the author tried) or by bus, getting there is a maze, and when arriving there, one would only see this and be disappointed…..

If you are a typical Glühwein drinker, this would be the place to try the local specialties and the mulled wine, ride the carousel, have your kids do artwork at the Gingerbread House and then leave after an hour.


Some of you are probably asking the author: “Mr. Smith, what caused you to stop at Naumburg instead of visiting the markets in Leipzig, Erfurt, Eisenach or even at bigger more popular towns.”  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: “Nichts leichter als das…..”



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