Public holidays in Germany

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By law, "the Sundays and the public holidays remain protected as days of rest from work and of spiritual elevation" (Art. 139 WRV, part of the German constitution via Art. 140 GG). Thus all Sundays are, in a manner, public holidays - but usually not understood by the term "holiday" (except for, normally, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday).

Public holidays apart from the Sundays (there must be some of them constitutionally) can be declared by law by either the Federation or the Länder for their respective jurisdictions. By federal law, only the German Unity Day is made a holiday at present (Unity Treaty, Art. 2 sect. 2); the others, even the ones celebrated all over Germany, are made holidays by state legislation.

List by state[edit]

Holiday Local name (in German) Date Baden-Württemberg Bavaria Berlin Brandenburg Bremen (state) Hamburg Hesse Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Lower Saxony North Rhine-Westphalia Rhineland-Palatinate Saarland Saxony Saxony-Anhalt Schleswig-Holstein Thuringia
New Year's Day Neujahrstag 1 January YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Epiphany Heilige Drei Könige 6 January YesY YesY YesY
Good Friday Karfreitag Easter Sunday - 2d YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Easter Monday Ostermontag Easter Sunday + 1d YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Labor Day Tag der Arbeit 1 May YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Ascension Day Christi Himmelfahrt Easter Sunday + 39d YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Whit Monday Pfingstmontag Easter Sunday + 50d YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Corpus Christi Fronleichnam Easter Sunday + 60d YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY (1) (2)
Peace Festival Friedensfest 8 August (3)
Assumption Day Mariä Himmelfahrt 15 August (5)(6) YesY
German Unity Day Tag der Deutschen Einheit 3 October YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Reformation Day Reformationstag 31 October YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
All Saints Allerheiligen 1 November YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Repentance and Prayer Day (4) Buß- und Bettag Second Wednesday before the First Advent (6) YesY
Christmas Day Weihnachtstag 25 December YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
St Stephen's Day / Boxing Day Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag 26 December YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Total number of holidays per state (7) 12 13 9 10 9 9 10 10 9 11 11 12 11 11 9 10

Notes:

YesY - public holiday is celebrated in that state.
(1) Public holiday only in few Sorbian communities.
(2) Public holiday only in the Catholic district of Eichsfeld.
(3) Public holiday only in the city of Augsburg.
(4) Public holiday in all states until 1994. The holiday was discontinued with introduction of nursing care insurance. Saxony is the only state where employers do not have to pay for nursing care insurance (paid by employees in that state) and where the holiday is still kept.
(5) Public holiday only in approx. 1700 communities with predominantly Catholic population and in the cities of Augsburg and Munich.
(6) Schools are closed all over the state on that day.
(7) For states where some holidays are not observed uniformly all over the state, such holidays are included in state's total number of holidays if celebration of those holidays is predominant and widespread in that state:
  • Bavaria: with Assumption Day, without Peace Festival.
  • Saxony and Thuringia: without Corpus Christi.

In addition the state of Brandenburg has formally declared Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday as public holidays. As these are Sundays anyway, they have been left away by the other states, nor counted in the table above (the state of Hesse even declared all Sundays public holidays).

Quiet days[edit]

A couple of days are designated stille Tage (quiet days) by state legislation, which regularly means that public dancing events, music at inns (if live or if not much quieter than usual) etc. are prohibited, and the like.

Some public holidays are quiet days:

  • Good Friday,
  • Prayer and Repentance Day (where it is a public holiday and in a couple of other states)
  • All Saints (where it is a public holiday)

one de facto public holiday (not determined by law, because always on a Sunday, but with officially organized celebrations) is a quiet day:

one other Sunday is a quiet day:

  • Totensonntag (the German-Protestant equivalent of All Souls Day), on the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year,

and some days may be quiet days without being public holidays:

  • Christmas Eve (beginning in the afternoon, in some states)
  • Ash Wednesday (in Bavaria)
  • Holy Thursday (in some states; in some of them beginning in the evening)
  • Holy Saturday (in some states)
  • All Souls Day (in Lower Saxony and the Saarland).

In a limited number of cases - apart from All Saints which, however, has long been associated in popular understanding with remembrance of the dead -, the status of quiet days is also given to festivities joyous in nature: in Hesse, the highest Christian holidays are half-quiet days (until midday) and in Rhineland-Palatinate, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day are two-thirds-quiet days (until 16 o'clock). For details see the German article on the dancing ban.

Flag Days[edit]

A yet third category that may, sometimes, be called "holidays" in a sense are the "flag days" (Beflaggungstage). Only the very highest institutions, and the military, use the national flags at every day, so the directives when flags are to be displayed mark the days in question as special.

Flags are to be shown by Federal Decree on

and by state decrees on other days, such as election days for state parliaments, state constitution days, anniversary of the election of the Federal President (in Berlin) and so forth.

Frequently flags are ordered ad hoc to be shown at half-mast in cases of national mourning.

Unofficial holidays[edit]

Either Carnival Monday ("Rose Monday") or Mardi Gras is a de facto holiday in some towns and cities in Catholic western and southern Germany which have a strong Carnival tradition.

Also, Christmas-Eve is developing into a sort of semi-holiday: from the middle of the afternoon, it is practically treated as a holiday, and while in the morning shops are still open, working for other businesses (apart from those that work even on holidays) becomes more and more unusual; schools are closed in any case.

Customs about holidays[edit]

Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt) and Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) are both always on Thursdays. By taking only one day's leave, employees can have a four-day weekend.

The Three Kings Day, better known as Epiphany, is 6 January, the day after the 12 days of Christmas. In parts of Germany, it has its own local customs.

Public holidays in the former German Democratic Republic[edit]

Holiday Local name Date Remarks
New Year Neujahr 1 January
Good Friday Karfreitag Easter Sunday - 2d
Easter Monday Ostermontag Easter Sunday + 1d until 1967 and in 1990
Labor Day Internationaler Kampf- und Feiertag
der Werktätigen für Frieden und Sozialismus
1 May
Day of Liberation Tag der Befreiung 8 May until 1967 and in 1985
Day of Victory Tag des Sieges 9 May only in 1975
Ascension Day Christi Himmelfahrt Easter Sunday + 39d until 1967 and in 1990
Whit Monday Pfingstmontag Easter Sunday + 50d
Day of the Republic Tag der Republik 7 October
Reformation Day Reformationstag 31 October until 1966
Day of Repentance and Prayer Buß- und Bettag Wed. before 23 November until 1966
Christmas Day 1. Weihnachtsfeiertag 25 December
St Stephen's Day / Boxing Day 2. Weihnachtsfeiertag 26 December

See also[edit]