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5 German traditions listed by UNESCO

Antje Binder
June 26, 2018

Across the world, UNESCO's Cultural Heritage list not only aims to protect monuments and buildings, but also customs and traditions. The latter end up on the so-called Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

An illustration of Red Riding Hood
Image: Imago/United Archives

UNESCO World Heritage site: That's what the world's most beautiful and impressive buildings are allowed to be called.Among them are the Tower of London and the Great Wall of China. And there are plenty of candidates vying for a spot on this coveted list.

From June 25 until July 4, the World Heritage Committee is meeting in Bahrain's capital, Manama, to discuss the next sites to be included on the prestigious list. 

Read more: UNESCO World Heritage sites: WWI memorials among the contenders

Human legacies

But this World Heritage list isn't just limited to buildings. Each year, the national UNESCO commissions also publish a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage customs and traditions.

The phrase might sound a bit awkward, but it's apt because it consists of everyday traditions from around the world that are non-material.

In Germany, they include forms of expression such as choral singing, handicrafts such the manufacture of North German thatched roofs and customs such as caroling or spoken stories such as Grimm's fairy tales.

Safeguarding traditions

Traditions are passed on from generation to generation, and give people the feeling of belonging to a community. This is what UNESCO aims to safeguard.

Since 2003, the organization has worked in some 170 countries around the world to protect intangible cultural heritage. Once a tradition makes it on to the national list, it can become a candidate for the international list.

In Germany, 34 traditions have landed on the nationwide inventory in 2017. We present five of them in our galley above.

For a look at some of the current UNESCO World Heritage contenders, check out the gallery below.