Oma is the informal German name for grandmother or grandma. Grossmutter is the more formal term. Since there are several forms of Standard German, as well as a number of dialects, spellings and pronunciations for the more formal term may differ.
Oma is pronounced as it looks: Oh-ma. Hear the pronunciation of grossmutter.
Both Oma for grandmother and Opa for grandfather are popular nicknames for grandparents in many parts of the world.
Family Life in Germany
The nuclear family of parents and children is the most important family unit in Germany, but the extended family is very much in evidence, especially on holidays and in times of family crisis.
Germany supports its parents with a program called Elterngeld. This program pays parents of newborns a monthly sum for 12-14 months and also allows them parental leave for the same amount of time.This program may affect the role of grandmothers, as they are not needed as much as they would be if mothers had to hurry back to work. Germany makes special provisions for older people, too. It is one of only four countries in the world to offer public insurance for long-term care. The program, called Pflegeversicherung, was designed by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck over 100 years ago.
Aging Germans can get their nursing home care partially paid for or can receive the sum of about 700 Euros per month to defray the cost of their care. The cost of nursing home care has risen so much that most families still opt for in-home care. The high cost has also caused some elderly residents to seek out cheaper facilities in nearby Slovakia or Hungary.
German Holidays and Celebrations
Germans celebrate a large number of holidays. Many have a religious basis, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Others are national in origin, such as German Unity Day and National Day. Then there are the family-based holidays -- Mother's Day and Father's Day. Although I've seen several references to Grandmothers' Day, supposedly celebrated the second Sunday of October, this is clearly not a well-established holiday in Germany.
Holidays are times when families come together and special foods are consumed. Careful planning is required, however, because most stores are closed on Sunday and on holidays in Germany, and many have restricted hours leading up to holidays.
Here are some of the traditional foods that grandmothers and others often prepare for holidays:
- Stollen is a cake with nuts and dried fruits that is popular during Advent and Christmas.
- Jelly-filled doughnuts, sometimes called Berliners, are a traditional food for Mardi Gras.
- Easter is often celebrated with a variety of beautiful breads.
- Lent calls for meatless dishes like käsespätzle, a cheese noodle casserole, and kartoffelpuffer, potato pancakes.
If you are getting carb overload just reading this list, not to worry. Modern German grandmothers make sure their grandchildren get lots of fruits and vegetables, too.