The ABC’s of Alsace
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
In the northeastern part of France, nestled right in between the borders of Switzerland and Germany, lies a region that is uniquely its own in terms of history and culture. Quaint villages and picturesque cities fill the small mountain range called Les Vesgos that runs across France’s eastern border (Ledson, 2018). Alsace, a special region in France, is home to languages, cuisines, and cultures that are influenced by a mix of French and German societies (Leichtfried, 2017). The people of Alsace and their culture are neither completely French nor German but rather, a unique combination of centuries old traditions from both countries.
A: All About Alsatian
Alsace has a complex history, as although the region is part of France today, the area has spent long periods of time under German influence and rule (Leichtfried, 2017). As a result, Alsatian, the colloquial language of Alsace, is a unique Germanic dialect that has reminisces of both German and French! In 1985, Alsatian was officially recognized as a French regional language after several independence movements in the 1970s pushing against the crackdown of regional languages. Today, Alsatian is the second-most spoken language in France after French, with the language being more popular among the older generation (Leichtfried, 2017). In Strasbourg, the regional capital city, the road signs and tram stops are written first in Alsatian and then followed by the French equivalent. An interesting fun fact is that Alsatian is even spoken in the United States, by the Amish people of Indiana who emigrated from Alsace in the early 19th century (Leichtfried, 2017).
B: Bredel, Baeckeoffe, and More!
Alsatian cuisine is also uniquely influenced by both French and German cooking, with delicious meals suited for every occasion. An example is bredel, which is a traditional Alsatian biscuit that is made during Christmas time and comes in many different flavors and shapes such as cinnamon stars and almond gingerbread (Leichtfried, 2017). Another popular dish is baeckeoffe, a typical casserole recipe that is prepared with an appetizing mix of sliced potatoes, onions, and several meats like beef, pork, and mutton (Leichtfried, 2017). Of course, you can’t speak about Alsatian specialities without mentioning the drinks! Alsace produces some of France’s finest white wines due to the cooler temperatures of the region. The region also accounts for 56% of France’s beer production and distributes almost 9 million hectolitres per year (Regions of France).
C: Celebrating Alsace’s Culture
The culture of Alsace is deeply rooted in traditions that stem from both France and Germany. Alsace is the only part of France that also celebrates December 26 or the day of Saint-Étienne as a national holiday, which is a tradition that has been carried down from the period of time when the area had been a part of Germany (Davis, 2017). Strasbourg is even regarded as the Capital of Christmas and is famed for its hundreds of Christmas markets held during the winter season. The most famous market is Christkindelsmärik; over 2 million visitors worldwide travel to Strasbourg just to experience the magic of Alsace’s holiday market (Davis, 2017). Another significant part of Alsatian culture is the importance of the stork. The stork is considered the emblem of Alsace and revered by its people as a harbinger of good luck and fertility (Davis, 2017).
Alsace offers a taste of French and German cultures in a unique, beautiful blend. Cheers to your next visit, or as the people of Alsace would say, S’gilt!
David, Sylvia Edwards. 2017. “10 Traditions Unique To Alsace, France.” Culture Trip, April 25, 2017.
Ledsom, Alex. 2018. “Why the Alsace Region Changed Nationality Four Times in a Century.” Culture Trip, July 24, 2018. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/why-the-alsace-region-changed-nationality-four-times-in-a-century/.
Leichtfried, Laura. 2017. “Alsace: culturally not quite French, not quite German.” British Council, February 23, 2017. https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/alsace-culturally-not-quite-french-not-quite-german.
Regions of France. “Alsace Culture, Heritage and Tradition.” Regions of France, n.d. https://www.regions-of-france.com/regions/alsace/culture.