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High days and holidays

Although in Germany it is the individual states’ duty to determine official holidays, there are eight holidays applying to the whole country in addition to German Unity Day which has been decreed by the federal government for all of Germany. Moreover, there are several holidays shared by a number of the states. In addition to these public holidays by law, there are a number of high days and memorial determined by church or local traditions, but contrary to holidays by law, these do not merit a paid working or school day off. However, there are certain high day events, such as the Carnival days in the Rhine area, which are used by large numbers of people to take a day off and can thus lead to a de facto holiday in these regions.

Erntedankfest

Most German holidays are derived from religious heritage and have been celebrated for a long time. The traditions connected to these festive days have been passed down for many years and are still being observed in most German families. The following is  a list of public and unofficial holidays in Germany:

Holiday

German name

Date

Description

New Year’s Day

Neujahr

1 January

Public holiday in all of Germany. First day of the Gregorian calendar, observed in many countries around the world

Epiphany

Heilige Drei K÷nige

6 January

Public holiday in Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt. Day to celebrate the revelation of God’s son as a human being

Valentine’s Day

Valentinstag

14 February

Regular working day, actually a celebration of a Christian saint. Germans usually give small gifts and send greeting cards to loved ones.

Rose Monday

Rosenmontag

48 days before Easter Sunday

Not a public holiday, most important day of annual Carnival celebrations. Many employees in traditional Carnival cities will get the day off to participate.

Good Friday

Karfreitag

2 days before Easter Sunday

Public holiday in all of Germany. Day to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Observed as a day of lent by many Catholics.

Easter Sunday

Ostersonntag

Sunday following the first spring full moon

Not an official public holiday as it is a Sunday anyway. Most important churchly holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter Monday

Ostermontag

Day following Easter Sunday

Public holiday in all of Germany. Holy day of obligation for Catholics, several regional rites and traditions, often athletic in nature

International Worker’s Day

Tag der Arbeit

1 May

Public holiday in all of Germany. Also known as May Day and observed in many countries around the world. In Germany often used for demonstrations.

Mother’s Day

Muttertag

Second Sunday in May

Not an official holiday, but  a tradition adopted from the US to honor the mother. In Germany, kids usually present their mothers with small handmade gifts.

Ascension Day

Christi Himmelfahrt

39 days after Easter Sunday

Public holiday in all of Germany. Always on a Thursday, the day commemorates the ascension of Jesus Christ. In Germany, the day is also Father’s Day.

Pentecost

Pfingstsonntag

49 days after Easter Sunday

Not an official public holiday as it is always on a Sunday. Day commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Whit Monday

Pfingstmontag

50 days after Easter Sunday

Public holiday in all of Germany and another of the holy days of observation for Catholics. The high day is regarded as the end of the Easter period.

Corpus Christi

Fronleichnam

60 days after Easter Sunday

Public holiday in six of the federal states (those with a Catholic majority). To celebrate the bodily presence of Jesus Christ, processions are held in some places.

Assumption Day

Mariń Himmelfahrt

15 August

Public holiday in Saarland, Munich and a number of communities in Bavaria. Day serves to commemorate the assumption of Mary into Heaven.

Harvest festival

Erntedankfest

First Sunday in October

Date may vary regionally. Church celebration and thanksgiving for the year’s harvest, sometimes accompanied by pageants

German Unity Day

Tag der deutschen Einheit

3 October

Public holiday in all of Germany. Commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. Previous to 1990, Unity Day in Germany was 17 June.

Reformation Day

Reformationstag

31 October

Public holiday in the five East German states. Day serves to commemorate the Reformation and Luther’s posting of the 95 theses at a church door in 1517.

Halloween

Halloween

31 October

Celebration of presumably Celtic origin. The tradition popular in America with a haunted theme and costume parties quickly gains popularity in Germany.

All Saints

Allerheiligen

1 November

Public holiday in five of the Western German states. Day used as a comprehensive commemoration of several saints.

Day of Repentance and Prayer

Bu▀- und Bettag

Wednesday before 23 November

Public holiday in Saxony and until 1994 in all of Germany. Day meant to be used for praying before the Protestant Liturgical year begins.

Christmas Eve

Heiligabend

24 December

Contrary to belief not a public holiday, but work de facto stops around noon. In Germany the Christmas day for gift-giving and family celebrations.

Christmas Day

Erster Weihnachtsfeiertag

25 December

Public holiday in all of Germany. As the “actual” Christmas day, this day goes back to the birth of Jesus Christ

Boxing Day / St. Stephen’s Day

Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag

26 December

Public holiday in all of Germany. Day actually honors a Christian saint but is widely understood to be a part of Christmas celebrations.

New Year’s Eve

Silvester

31 December

Not a public holiday, but in effect handled like Christmas Eve. Like everywhere else, Germans celebrate the New Year with fireworks at midnight.