The "time between the years" are those 11 days and 12 nights from December 25 to January 6 also called. In this somewhat unreal time, it is also known to be particularly dark. And so it is of course not so much the days, but above all the so-called Rauhnächte, which then unfold their own, creepy-beautiful magic. During guided torchlight hikes, mysterious legends and customs come to life again.

With torches through the twilight

This is also the case in the Frau-Holle-Land Geo-Nature Park in the GrimmHeimat North Hesse. Around the Hohe Meißner with its flat top, nature park guides keep the old stories alive during leisurely winter hikes. At dusk, torches are lit one by one so that it gets brighter and brighter during the hike across the nocturnal mountain. Along the way, stories are told about Frau Holle and the Rauhnächte. Participants may write their wishes for the New Year on a piece of paper and hang it on a tree. Afterwards, a typical rustic meal awaits at the Bollerofen in the Viehhaus hut or in a restaurant.

During a torchlight hike in the light snow drift the old legends come alive again
During a torchlight hike in the light snow drift, the old legends come alive again © Geo-Naturpark Frau-Holle-Land

Tales from Mrs. Holle

By the way, the name of the Geo-Nature Park Frau-Holle-Land actually comes from the old mythical figure around whom many stories are entwined in the region near the border to Thuringia. The fairy tale of the same name by the Brothers Grimm is also based on the traditional stories about Frau Holle. However, the legendary figure behind the Grimm fairy tale is much more complex. In many European countries she appears under various names: Hulda, Perchte, Frau Fricke, Frau Schunkel, Berta, Trempe, Stampa, Baba Jaga or Mare. Originally, Frau Holle was a goddess of nature. As such, she had power over nature and the seasons, among other things. She was not only kind and good, but could also be strict and punitive. Hard-working women could hope to find a piece of silver unexpectedly, quarrelsome girls and drunkard boys, on the other hand, were turned into cats or calves. And since the Hohe Meißner has always been a mystical place of coming into being and passing away in the region, there is a particularly close relationship here not only to Frau Holle, but also to the Rauhnächten.

Frau Holle has many faces - and also likes to show herself in the form of one of the nature park guides
Frau Holle has many faces - and also likes to show herself in the form of one of the nature park guides © Marco Lenarduzzi

The open spirit realm

It was once believed that the spirit realm was open for a certain time during the Rauhnächten. No wonder, then, that this gave rise to a number of prohibitions and rules that now sometimes seem quite curious: No laundry was to be washed between Christmas and Epiphany - otherwise it could be taken away and given to the owner as a shroud the following year. Hair and nails were not to be cut, otherwise there was a threat of pain in these very places. At the same time, however, a little help was given to fate. If you knocked on your neighbor's fence, you could hope that his chickens would soon lay their eggs on the wrong side of the property line. And if an unmarried girl stood at a certain intersection at night, she could see the figure of her future husband walking by as a ghost. Whether this also worked for young men is not known.

In the Raunächten the realm of humans is open to the spirits - with such sunsets in the Geo-Naturpark Frau-Holle-Land the old stories do not seem so far-fetched anymore
In the Rauhnächten the realm of humans is open to the spirits - with such sunsets in the Geo-Naturpark Frau-Holle-Land the old stories don't seem so far-fetched anymore © Peter Kerst

Cherry blossom and poppy villages

The old stories fit wonderfully into the enchanting landscape of the Geo-Nature Park - at any time of year. Winters on the Hohe Meißner are great. The snow or frost then crackles under your feet with every step, everything shimmers in the sunlight. The Hohe Meißner is a weather frontier. Plenty of snow comes from the west, so that here at a good 750 meters everything is often white, while towards the east in the valley there is no snow at all. In winter, the mountain is perfect for cross-country skiing and sledding, and some alpine skiing is also possible. In spring, 100,000 cherry trees blossom, and at the end of June, the pink blossoms of the opium poppy open, which has been cultivated here again for several years. Rare orchids such as the lady's slipper have their home in the Geo-Nature Park, and arnica and gentian thrive magnificently. Peregrine falcons, wild cats and lynxes live there. At the same time, the region is also geologically very diverse. There are over 200 geotopes, the Kitzkammer with its hexagonal basalt columns is especially recommended. You can also stroll through half-timbered towns like Bad Sooden-Allendorf or Eschwege.

Extremely charming - a winter hike through the Geo-Nature Park Frau-Holle-Land at nightfall
Extremely charming - a winter hike through the Frau-Holle-Land Geo-Nature Park at nightfall © Peter Kerst

Gumdrop oracle

In the past, people spent the Rough Nights praying and fasting so as not to be threatened by the spirits of this dark time. Stables and rooms were fumigated to get rid of evil energies and spirits. Whether the word Rauhnacht comes from this smoking or rather from Rauware, fur stuff that the spirits wore on their bodies, is unclear. So that it does not become too gloomy, a new Rauhnacht tradition with the gummy bear oracle was established with the nature park guides of the Geo national park: Everyone takes a fruit gum. And the color of the bear tells which themes will play an important role in the life of the respective person in the coming year: Red stands for energy, love, joy, strength and activity. Yellow for money, talent, career, splendor and prosperity. White prophesies clarity, knowledge, wisdom and guidance. Green means (self-)trust, peace, advice, sanity and resilience. And finally, orange speaks for more ease, contacts and creativity in everyday life. Just kidding, of course, but certainly more enjoyable than fasting in the middle of winter. However, some of the old customs are still adhered to today. For example, the washing machine usually remains silent between the years...

Cover photo: The snow crackles softly - the mystical time of the year begins during the Rauhnächten © Marco Lenarduzzi

In collaboration with Hesse tourism

Hiking through quiet low mountain ranges, old beech forests or orchards, paddling on the Lahn, looking at the most beautiful medieval half-timbered houses and soaking up the atmosphere of historic spas - Hessen makes romantic souls happy all around. But gourmets also get their money's worth on wine hikes, in Hessian butcher shops and with "Handkäs mit Musik", a pickled cheese. Reasons for a Vacation in Hesse there are enough!

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