The Mettenschicht is an old German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

A miner is a person whose work or business is to extract ore or minerals from the earth. Mining is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. In some countries miners lack social guarantees and in case of injury may be left to cope without assistance....

 custom in the Ore Mountains
Ore Mountains
The Ore Mountains in Central Europe have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for many centuries. Today, the border between Germany and the Czech Republic runs just north of the main crest of the mountain range...

. It is the name given to the last shift worked before Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, which ends early with a celebration and meal.

Mettenschicht is the main Christmas celebration among miners in the Protestant Ore Mountains; in Catholic mining areas of Germany, St Barbara's Day
Saint Barbara
Saint Barbara, , Feast Day December 4, known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Great Martyr Barbara, was an early Christian saint and martyr....

 is more important. It is first recorded in the first half of the 17th century. The Steiger, a foreman or overseer, would finish the pre-Christmas shift early with a knocking signal, "knocking the miners out". Then he would give a sort of sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

 in the Huthaus, the administrative building, which was decorated for the occasion. Singing miners' songs such as Der Steiger, the miners would give thanks to God for the products of the mine. A simple, traditional meal ended the shift. The meal usually consisted of bratwurst
A bratwurst is a sausage usually composed of veal, pork or beef. The plural in German is Bratwürste....

 with mashed potato
Mashed potato
Mashed potato is made by mashing freshly boiled potatoes with a ricer, fork, potato masher, food mill, or whipping them with a hand beater. Dehydrated and frozen mashed potatoes are available in many places...

es and sauerkraut
Sauerkraut , directly translated from German: "sour cabbage", is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid...

 as well as herbed schnapps
Schnapps is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage. The English word schnapps is derived from the German Schnaps , which can refer to any strong alcoholic drink but particularly those containing at least 32% ABV...

 and a cigar (gaahlem Gelecht). Also common are glühwein, tea and bacon-fat butterbrot
The German word "Butterbrot" describes a slice of bread topped with butter. The words in formal and colloquial German and the different dialects for butterbrot , simply "Brot" , "Butterstulle", "Stulle", "Schnitte" ,...


The idea of the Mettenschicht has spread from the Ore Mountains to many exhibition mines as an idea for a Christmas celebration with elements of mining tradition. They vary from end-of-year celebrations focusing on strict historical authenticity, often held in the mine itself, attended by sponsors, friends, and in many cases honorary officials of the mine, through incentive events for which tickets are sold, to mining folk events put on in the city hall for bus tours.


  • Bernd Lahl. Mettenschichten im Erzgebirge: Geschichte, Berichte, Geschichten. Marienberg: Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft Marienberg, 2001, ISBN 3-931770-35-4
  • Richard Truckenbrodt. "Erzgebirgsweihnacht". Glückauf 49 (1929), pp. 254–55.
  • Werner Unger. "Mettenschichten und Glückauf-Abende - Vom Ursprung weihnachtlicher Lichtelabende". Erzgebirgische Heimatblätter 6/1980, pp. 130–33,
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