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Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen - Little S ...

Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen - Little Snowflake

Dec 15, 2022

The Christmas song that wasn’t. Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen is a winter song. It’s all about snowflakes and doesn’t mention Christmas at all. However, it is often sung during the advent time, which is why I included it in my playlist of German Christmas songs.

snowflakes winter schneeflöckchen weißröckchen Gerd Altmann auf Pixabay

Tante Hedwig

The song about snowflakes dates back to the 19th century. And while it is often described as a folk tune where you normally don’t even know the creator, we know that Hedwig Haberkern wrote the text to the song as part of her story Die Geschichte von der Schneewolke (The story of the snow cloud). 

Haberkern or Tante Hedwig (Aunt Hedwig) was born in 1837 in Breslau (now Poland). She was a preschool and school teacher who wrote stories for young children and published her first book Geschichten für kleine Kinder (Stories for little children) in 1869. In it we find the story of the snow cloud and the song with its original title Schneeflöckchen, im Himmel (Little snowflake in the sky).

The Song

Haberkern’s song had two stanzas with 8 lines each though nowadays it is more commonly written as four stanzas with 4 lines. The word Weißröckchen (little white skirt) doesn’t appear in the first line or in the title until later, Haberkern uses the word in her 2nd stanza (now 4th). If you ask yourself what snowflakes have to do with skirts the answer is very easy. Weißröckchen is the Silesian word for snowflake and since Haberkern is from Breslau in Silesia it is not surprising she would use it.

It is a little more difficult to determine which melody Tante Hedwig wanted to be used for her song. She wrote that the words should be sung to the melody of the song/poem Wir Kinder, wir haben / essen der Freuden so viel by Overbeck from 1777. The problem is that at the time there were two melodies for this song: one by Carl Christian Agthe from 1782, and one by Mozart from 1791. Both of them are relatively sophisticated for a children’s song which is why some people think that there was a third, simpler melody. However, listening to Mozart’s Kinderspiel you can hear the similarities to the Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen song as we know it and sing it today.

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