Abroad in Mainz | Holidays and Breaks in Germany

Studium, Internationales...
Sarah F.

I have been in Germany for about six months now though it feels longer. It feels weird that the new semester has already begun. There will be a bit of backtracking and talk about and compare American and German holidays and then talk about what I am doing currently.


Halloween in Germany is a bit different than the American one. Both Americans and Germans dress up for the holiday and have parties. However, Halloween in America also celebrates the fall. There are regular and haunted mazes in corn fields, horse carriage rides through the corn fields, pumpkin carving and the largest pumpkin contests, costume contests and my favorite, trick or treat, where children (and some college students) will go door to door and get free candies and treats from neighbors. 

When I was in Memphis, I watched scary movies with friends and ate candy and flavored popcorn. While I was here in Germany, I pre partied with my friends before the Halloween party in by listening to Swedish, American, British, and Portuguese music, eating some pizza with multiple toppings, making Halloween costumes (technically, I watched my friends create their costumes. I had no Halloween spirit. It died.). 

The Halloween party wasn’t all that great to me personally. There was bad dancing, drunken make outs, that one drunk sleazy guy that you wonder how he is still able to stand, and somewhat decent American, British and German rock music mixed with too much “Lass es los ganz genau”. However, on the positive side, I did enjoy my time I had with my friends at the pre-party since it reminded me of my time with my friends in Memphis during Halloween and it was very chill and relaxed. 


The American Holiday that celebrates the harvest despite the shady history, most Americans celebrate this holiday with family and friends. This holiday is similar to Christmas but with food. Much. More. Food. Seriously. During Thanksgiving with my family, there is a table full of orange sweet potatoes, sweet and salty corn from the skillet, American-style spaghetti, dressing with baked chicken inside, greens, deep fried turkey, a bunch of biscuits and two sweet potato pies.

Cooking that big of a meal usually starts a day or two before and even a bit on Thanksgiving. That meal usually lasts about three days till a week. When I lived off-campus in a student dorm in Memphis, I took about three plates back with me after the holidays were over. 

During my time here in Mainz, I celebrated the holiday with my German and international friends. My friend, Claudia made the turkey and sautéed rice and cranberries, while I made sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas and macaroni and cheese or mac and cheese and my friend Felix made and brought dessert. Despite the slight homesickness, I felt really good having everyone together and was glad everyone had hopefully a good time getting full of food and chatting. 

Christmas Break 

During the Christmas break, I experienced a German Christmas season, which is so much different from the American one. Christmas is very festive in Germany compared to the one in America, which has a much more home-like feel. Most Americans celebrate Christmas with their families and/or close friends and it is celebrated mainly at home indoors. 

Despite my hatred for the cold, I went to the Christmas markets in Mainz and found it adorable how Germans would cuddle together in the cold around the wet, freezing table with warm glühwein, a wine that is brewed in a pot with a bit of sugar and sometimes fruit, in their cold bare and mitten hands during the night. It was definitely different from seeing very unemotional Germans walking swiftly in cloudy and cold weather during the day.  

Also, the Christmas break at the university is very short, about two weeks long compared to a two month long break at the end on the semester at my home university. On a short note, some American universities have a two semester system, which begins in the late August or early September and end in December and start again in January and end in May.

Now, I was not actually in Germany during Christmas. I went to Slovenia with my friend Vanja for about a week and celebrated Christmas with them. I saw her hometown, Maribor and the capital, Ljubljana and Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. I really did enjoy my time there and it helped with the homesickness.

New Year’s Eve

After my random trip to Berlin about a day or two before New Year’s Eve (which wasn’t my wisest choice but I enjoyed it), I came back to Mainz at 7 am on New Year’s Eve, slept until 5pm, realized there was nothing open but Yormans, went there for snacks, and went to a friend of a friend’s New Year’s Eve party. One of the things I realized about NYE parties in Germany is that it is not a fancy event. A person doesn’t really dress up in dresses, heals, and tons of makeup or a casual suit and some loafers. 

Another thing is that Germans do not like drinking alone compared to Americans and this phrase “Will you like to have a drink with me” means in German something casual and actually do want to drink with them because Germans don’t like drinking alone. In America, it’s an old pick up line to ask people out in bars and clubs.

The last thing would be how long German parties are compared to Americans. German parties usually last until about 4 till 5 am where as American parties tend to last until around midnight until 2 am. It is rarely later than that. Other than that, New Year’s Eve in both countries are pretty similar: people drink a ton, fireworks on midnight, people kiss when the day hits, and take an insane amount of photos.

Semester Break and Where I am now

Semester breaks in America and Germany are different mainly in one way:  exams are before the semester break in America unlike during like in Germany. Past that, breaks are just breaks. People chill, travel, study, work, and do internships. During the break, I participated in an internship while studying and doing exams. It was rather challenging to study and do exams since the internship was throughout the day like a 9 to 5 job.  So, I highly don’t recommend doing that if you have a choice. 

After the internship, I traveled to Paris, France to see the city and my friend, Lovisa. The weather was nice, the city was laced with white buildings, vendors of all sorts with scammers and non-scammers, and many artsy areas. I fell in love with Paris a bit despite having my phone pick-pocketed. I guess it was a nice change of scenery.

Currently, I’ve been preparing for the next semester while at the same time doing work at my home university making sure everything will be transferred and looking at jobs and internships back. I guess the best way to call this break is the calm before the storm as known as the Summer Semester.

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