German holidays: These are your holidays in Germany

Marle

Updated on Oct 07 • 5 minute read

German holidays fall a little short compared to its neighbours in other European countries. Slovakia celebrates 16 public holidays while there are only 9 public holidays in Germany on average.

However, here you have to keep in mind that Germany compensates the low number of public holidays with considerably more generous annual holiday leave. With 30 annual leave days, Germany takes the pole position ahead of Sweden (26)!

Are you wondering now which public holidays are actually counted on two hands in Germany? As an expat it's anything but easy to get an idea of the various holidays, so let us walk you through the holidays in Germany.

The public holidays in Germany

On public holidays in Germany, your day off revolves around everything but your work. In fact, the legislator imposed the prohibition of employment (Beschäftigungsverbot); this means for you: you have to rest your work on this day.

Naturally, there are some exemptions among certain professional groups, and so the fire department, just like the emergency and rescue services, hospitals and restaurants, has to continue working on public holidays in Germany.

Public holidays in Germany vary from state to state

Did you know that Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Saarland have the most public holidays, namely twelve per year?

There are no nationwide public holidays in Germany; instead, each federal-state decides independently which German public holidays are considered public holidays in that state.

There's only one day that is binding for all federal states: the day of German reunification.

This regulation leaves your holiday account somewhat bare in Hamburg and Bremen as there are only 10 German public holidays while the South jumps from one public holiday to the other.

So, do you ask yourself why your expat friends in Berlin (state: Berlin) suddenly have 11 public holidays and you only have 10 in Frankfurt am Main (state: Hessen)? This overview gives you a little clarity about the holidays in Germany depending on the federal state:

  • Bavaria: 12
  • Saarland: 12
  • Baden-Wuerttemberg: 12
  • Saxony: 11
  • Saxony-Anhalt: 11
  • Rhineland-Palatinate: 11
  • North Rhine-Westphalia: 11
  • Thuringia: 11
  • Berlin: 11
  • Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: 10
  • Hesse: 10
  • Schleswig-Holstein: 10
  • Brandenburg: 10
  • Bremen: 10
  • Hamburg: 10

Holidays in Germany vary even within one federal state. For instance, Augsburg in Bavaria introduced August 8 to be a peace festival, declaring it a public holiday and with this boosts Augsburg with 14 public holidays to the pinnacle of the most public holidays in Germany. And even the approx. 1700 Catholic communities in Bavaria celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as a public holiday; the other approx. 350 Bavarian communities do without it.

By the way: In Germany, there are ongoing discussions about the number of holidays per federal state. As a result, more and more public holidays have been introduced in Germany in the course of the last few years. Berlin, for example, became the first federal state to introduce World Women's Day as a public holiday on March 8, 2019, while Thuringia was the first to introduce World Children's Day on September 20 as a public holiday.

Which official German holidays are there?

On the night of May 1st, you’ll snatch your friends and dance together into May 1st. Typically, you can then head to the clubs the next day for day clubbing as no one will be working on that day. But why do Germans dance into May and what other holidays are there?

Here is an overview, so that you know exactly your days off. And if you're a little clever with the bridge days, you can stretch your days off through the combination of public holidays vacation days at work significantly, particularly in April and May.

Public holidayDateFederal states
New YearJanuary 1stAll federal states
Good FridayFriday before easterAll federal states
Easter MondaySunday after the beginning of spring and the first full moon (March 21st)All federal states
Labour DayMay 1stAll federal states
Ascension Day40 days after EasterAll federal states
Whit Monday49 days after EasterAll federal states
German Unity DayOctober 3rdAll federal states
Christmas DayDecemer 25thAll federal states
Boxing DayDecember 26thAll federal states
Reformation Day / All Saints' DayOctober 31st / November 1stProtestant states (exception: Berlin and Hessen); only one event is celebrated
Women's DayMarch 8thBerlin
EpiphanyJanuary 6thBaden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt
Corpus ChristiThursday after the first Sunday after Whitsun (60th day after Easter Sunday)
Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Catholic parishes in Saxony,Catholic parishes of Thuringia
Augsburg High Peace FestivalAugust 8thCity of Augsburg
World Children's DaySeptember 20thThuringia
Day of Prayer and RepentanceWednesday before Eternity Sunday and 11 days before the first Sunday in AdventSaxony

The unofficial holidays in Germany

Besides the public holidays in every federal state, there are also unofficial holidays. This means for you: your children still have to go to school, work is waiting for you just like university classes; the day itself won’t be anything close to normal.

Every year at 11:11 a.m., the 11th of November kicks off the carnival season; "the fools" (”Die Narren”) and carnival clubs storm the town halls and public places. Fun fact: No one really knows anymore why this happens exactly on the number 11.11. at 11.11 o'clock though.

And then, in February, the carnival season really takes off!

In the entire Rhineland the Weiberfastnacht is the unofficial holiday, where at 11.11 o'clock the seven-day carnival celebrations get kicked off.

You're at the Weiberfastnacht at the office? Better watch out: your tie won't hang neatly in front of your shirt for very long. On Weiberfastnacht, ties are traditionally cut off from men, symbolically to cut off "the male power". Thus, on Weiberfastnacht, the men walk around with their ties cut off and are compensated with a little kiss (Bützchen).

You can count on a seven-day celebration if you're living in Cologne or Düsseldorf. On Shrove Monday, the fools hand out sweets and flowers during the Rose Monday parade, dance groups perform their choreographies, and ceremonial and motif floats parade through the streets. Weeks before, those from North Rhine-Westphalia are getting their costumes ready. So, what’ll be your costume this year?

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