German word of the day: Der Dominostein

These are dominos that are not meant to be played with, but rather enjoyed as a Christmas sweet.

German word of the day: Der Dominostein
'Dominosteine' are laid out at the manufacturer Lambertz in Aachen on September 30th. Photo: DPA

What does it mean? 

This is a nice compound word, made up of der Domino (domino) and der Stein (board game tile in this context), which is literally translated as “domino tile.” At Christmastime, this word refers to a popular sweet sold in Germany and Austria. 

This sweet contains several layers, topped off with a thin layer of (traditionally dark) chocolate icing. It is most known for its cubic shape. 

The base layer is der Lebkuchen, or gingerbread, which has a very long tradition of being a popular Christmas treat in Germany. 

The next layer is das Gelee, or jelly, made most often from Sauerkirsche (sour cherries) or Aprikose (apricots). 

The third and top layer is made from das Marzipan (marzipan). 

Three layers of sweets make up the beloved Christmas praline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kaldari.

Where did it come from? 

The Dominostein was invented in Dresden in 1936. Traditional praline sweets, which were quite popular at that time, were costly for many people. A man named Herbert Wendler decided to create the Dominostein as a more affordable option. 

They gained popularity as a replacement for pralines because of food shortages during World War II. They were even called Notpraline or “need/distress pralines” during this time. The sweet was layer produced primarily by Dresden-based chocolatier Dr. Ing. Quendt. 

December 3rd has been declared as Dominosteintag, or “Dominostein Day,” so get out there and enjoy these special German treats! 

Example sentences 

Bitte gib mir die Dominosteine. 

Please give me the domino tile pralines. 

Ein traditioneller Dominostein wird mit dunkler Schokolade hergestellt, kann aber auch mit Vollmilch- oder weißer Schokolade hergestellt werden. 

A traditional domino tile praline is made with dark chocolate, but it can also be made with milk or white chocolate. 

Wenn man Dominosteine sieht, ist es Weihnachtszeit! 

When one sees domino tile pralines, then it’s Christmas time! 


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German word of the day: Der Barbarazweig 

If you see a spring blossom branch hung up in your German or Austrian friend’s home throughout December, it will likely be a Barbarazweig.

Blackboard shows the words 'der Barbarazweig'
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Der Barbarazweig, translated literally to “Barbara branch”, are branches cut from cherry, apple or plum trees that, according to German Christmas custom, should bloom pretty white flowers just in time for Christmas morning. These bloomed branches will then bring you good luck in the new year. However, if the branch fails to bloom, bad luck will come your way. But where does this legend come from?

Saint Barbara was the daughter of a merchant who was imprisoned due to her father’s disapproval of her conversion to Christianity. On her way to the dungeon, a cherry branch got caught in her dress. Every day of Barbara’s sentence, she provided the cherry branch with lots of water until the day of her execution, when the branch finally bloomed.

While the legend describes a cherry branch, nowadays apple or plum branches are used, as well as other garden shrubs such as blackthorn, forsythia, and hazelnut.

READ ALSO: Seven classic Christmas traditions still taking place in the pandemic

How do you do it?

To ensure a blooming branch on Christmas morning, it is recommended that you cut the branch on December 4th. This also coincides with St. Barbara’s Day or the feast of St. Barbara, which is celebrated in several other Roman Catholic and Anglican countries, such as Italy, France and the UK.

Immediately after cutting off a branch or a few (for extra luck of course), place them in a freezer for around 12 hours, then place them in lukewarm water overnight. Finally, place them in a vase with room temperature water and watch them bloom, making sure to change the water every three to four days.

A cherry blossom tree blooming in Thuringia.
A cherry blossom tree blooming earlier this year in Thuringia. This tradition gives a reminder that spring will come again. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

The custom also developed into a wedding tradition in German households. Unmarried girls would hang slips of paper with the names of their suitors on the branches. Whichever branch blossomed first was to be chosen as the girl’s husband.

While this tradition isn’t the most well-known – even in Germany it is becoming increasingly uncommon – it is a great way to add a touch of spring bloom to your festive decorations.


Vergiss nicht, deinen Barbarazweig zu gießen, sonst haben wir im neuen Jahr Pech.

Make sure to water your Barbarabranch, or we’ll have bad luck in the new year.

Heute ist der vierte Dezember, also ist es schon so weit, einen Barbarazweig abzuschneiden.

Today the fourth of December, so it’s already time to cut off a Barbarabranch.