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Gänseliesel, Lower Saxony

The Gänseliesel (English: Goose Girl, Goose Lizzy (Liesel as pet name of Elisabeth)) is a fountain which was erected in 1901 in front of the mediaeval town hall of Göttingen, Germany. Although rather small in size, the fountain is the most well-known landmark of the city. Today, it is an essential part of the graduation celebrations for every student who finishes a doctorate at the George August University Göttingen to climb the fountain and to kiss the statue of the goose girl. A Gänseliesel is also situated in Monheim am Rhein, Hanover’s Steintor Square and Berlin’s Nikolsburger Square.

Soon after the fountain was erected, newly-enrolled students of the Georgia Augusta university began to climb up the fountain and to kiss the statue which rapidly became a university tradition. Because the climbing of the fountain was usually celebrated with excessive consumption of alcohol and loud cheers of fellow students and because the number of students largely increased after World War I, police issued a decree in 1926 that officially forbade the climbing and kissing of the statue. A law student who was prosecuted for kissing the goose girl in the same year, took the case to court. However, the superior court of justice in Berlin legitimated the edict.

The tradition itself has changed over time, and today it is unusual for first year students to kiss the statue; it is now more common to bring a bouquet of flowers to the Gänseliesel and to give her a kiss after one’s official reception of the doctorate degree. It is for this reason that the fountain is decorated with flowers very frequently, and throughout the year. Until today, climbing and kissing of the monument remains officially forbidden although both the city of Göttingen and the university advertise themselves with pictures of PhD graduates kissing the girl. Since 1995, each year on a weekend in September the city of Göttingen stages the so-called “Gänselieselfest” in honor of the goose girl. Main event of these festivities is the election of a young woman from Göttingen as the Gänseliesel, representing the town and the statue for one year.

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