There are a number of national and regional public holidays. Germany is a predominantly Christian country. Therefore, most celebrations and German holidays are religious festivities. On national public holidays, people in Germany generally do not work but some service industries remain open.
NEW YEARS' DAY
Just like in the U.S., New Years' Day is a federal holiday in Germany. It is a time for new beginnings and reflection. In Germany, New Year's Eve, known as Silvester, is typically celebrated with great enthusiasm and fireworks displays. As the clock strikes midnight, people gather in public squares, private parties, or tune in to televised events to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one. Fireworks light up the sky, and the air is filled with joyous cheers and well wishes for the upcoming year.On New Year's Day itself, the atmosphere is generally more serene as people take time to relax and recover from the previous night's celebrations. It is a day for contemplation, setting goals, and spending time with loved ones. Many Germans use this occasion to make New Year's resolutions, setting personal targets for self-improvement, health, or career aspirations.
SPRINGTIME: TWO DAYS BEFORE EASTER SUNDAY
Good Friday, also known as Karfreitag in German, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is also known as Holy Friday. It is a moveable holiday and celebrated every two days before Easter Sunday. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the beginning of spring and its first full moon. Many churches across the country hold special religious services and processions to remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. These services often involve prayers, hymns, readings from the Bible, and the veneration of the cross. On Good Friday, it is customary for many Germans to observe dietary restrictions, particularly abstaining from meat. Fish dishes, such as smoked salmon, herring, or carp, are popular choices for meals on this day. Many bakeries also offer special pastries and bread, such as "Karfreitagshörnchen" (Good Friday crescent rolls) or "Osterfladen" (Easter tart), which are enjoyed by families during the Easter weekend.
Easter Monday, known as Ostermontag in German, is a public holiday celebrated in Germany as part of the Easter festivities. Following the solemn observances of Good Friday and the joyous celebrations of Easter Sunday, Easter Monday holds its own significance with a range of customs and activities. It is believed that Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after his resurrection. Just like Good Friday, Easter Monday falls on different dates every year. Easter Monday is primarily a day for spending quality time with family and loved ones. Many Germans take advantage of the long weekend to enjoy outings and picnics in parks, forests, or countryside areas. Families often gather for meals together, exchange Easter eggs, and engage in outdoor activities, making the most of the spring season's pleasant weather.
Labor Day, or May Day (Tag der Arbeit in German), commemorates the historic struggles and gains made by German workers. Labor Day is also a public holiday in many other countries. The Day of Labor in Germany is also a time for relaxation and leisure. Many people take advantage of the day off to spend time with their families and friends or engage in outdoor activities. Parks and recreational areas often host picnics, concerts, and cultural events to celebrate the holiday spirit. The roots of this observance date back to the late 19th century when workers across the world fought for better working conditions, including an eight-hour workday. In Germany, May 1st became a symbolic day for labor movements following the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886, where workers rallied for their rights and were met with violence. It is worth noting that the Day of Labor in Germany is not without controversy. In some instances, clashes between protesters and law enforcement have occurred, leading to tensions and debates surrounding the nature and purpose of the demonstrations.
Ascension Day is a moveable holiday and holds significant religious meaning for Christians in Germany. It marks the completion of Jesus' earthly mission and his return to the heavenly realm. Many churches hold special services on this day, focusing on the themes of ascension, hope, and the anticipation of Jesus' promised return. These services often include hymns, prayers, and readings from the Bible, reflecting on the significance of Christ's ascension and its implications for believers.
MAY 10 - JUNE 13
Pentecost Monday, commonly known as Pfingstmontag in Germany, is a public holiday that holds religious and cultural significance. It falls on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and marks the birth of the Christian Church (see Books of Acts). It is a moveable holiday and follows 39 days after Whitsunday..
In Germany, Pentecost Monday is a day off for most people, providing an opportunity for relaxation, family gatherings, and outdoor activities. It is a time when people come together to celebrate the arrival of spring, as Pentecost often coincides with the blooming of flowers and warmer weather. Religious observances are also an integral part of Pentecost Monday. Church services and processions are held to honor the Holy Spirit and reflect on the significance of Pentecost.
GERMAN UNITY DAY
German Unity Day, also known as Tag der Deutschen Einheit, holds immense importance for Germans as it symbolizes the end of the Cold War era and the reunification of a divided nation. It is a time for reflection, celebration, and unity across the country. It is celebrated on October 3rd each year. The former division of Germany into East and West following World War II created a stark contrast in political ideologies, economic systems, and the overall way of life. The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 further solidified this separation, physically dividing families, friends, and the nation itself. However, in the late 1980s, the winds of change swept across Europe, and the peaceful revolution in East Germany led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the process of reunification gained momentum. Negotiations and discussions took place between East and West German leaders, paving the way for a unified Germany. On October 3, 1990, the two German states officially reunified, marking the birth of the modern Federal Republic of Germany. Since then, this date has been celebrated as German Unity Day.
The official ceremony takes place in different cities each year, highlighting the progress made since reunification and emphasizing the importance of solidarity among the German states. Citizens and visitors can participate in concerts and cultural activities that promote the values of togetherness and cooperation. It is a day when Germans reflect on the achievements of the past and look towards a shared future.
DECEMBER 25TH AND 26TH
Christmas celebrations usually last for three days in Germany. In Germany, the most important time for Christmas celebrations is on the evening of December 24th, known as Heiligabend. Families come together to decorate the Christmas tree, known as the "Tannenbaum," with ornaments, lights, and candles. It is customary to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, followed by a festive meal that often includes dishes such as roasted goose, carp, or other regional specialties. Christmas carols, or "Weihnachtslieder," are an integral part of the German Christmas tradition. Choirs and groups of carolers sing traditional songs, spreading the joyous spirit of the season. Many people also attend Midnight Mass, known as "Christmette," in churches, where they celebrate the birth of Jesus and partake in a solemn and uplifting religious service.
In Germany, the Christmas celebration extends beyond just Christmas Eve. The holiday continues with two more special days known as the First and Second Christmas Days. These days hold significance in the country's festive calendar and are observed with various traditions and customs. The First Christmas Day, also known as "Erster Weihnachtstag," falls on December 25th. It is a public holiday, and families typically spend this day together, enjoying quality time and continuing the festivities. Family gatherings are common during the First Christmas Day. Loved ones come together for a festive meal, which often includes traditional dishes such as roasted meats, potatoes, red cabbage, and delicious Christmas desserts. Exchanging gifts may also continue on this day, as families open presents and share in the joy of giving and receiving. The Second Christmas Day, known as "Zweiter Weihnachtstag," is celebrated on December 26th. Similar to the First Christmas Day, it is also a public holiday, allowing people to relax, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the holiday spirit a little longer. This day provides an opportunity for extended family members and friends who were not present on Christmas Eve or the First Christmas Day to come together and celebrate.