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 2 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.
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 that you have to leave your work on this day.
Naturally, there're some exemptions among certain professional groups. So the fire department, just like the emergency and rescue services, hospitals and restaurants, has to continue working on public holidays in Germany.
Did you know that Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Saarland have the most public holidays, namely 12 per year?
There aren't 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:
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.
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 holiday||Date||Federal states|
|New Year||January 1st||All federal states|
|Good Friday||Friday before easter||All federal states|
|Easter Monday||Sunday after the beginning of spring and the first full moon (March 21st)||All federal states|
|Labour Day||May 1st||All federal states|
|Ascension Day||40 days after Easter||All federal states|
|Whit Monday||49 days after Easter||All federal states|
|German Unity Day||October 3rd||All federal states|
|Christmas Day||Decemer 25th||All federal states|
|Boxing Day||December 26th||All federal states|
|Reformation Day / All Saints' Day||October 31st / November 1st||Protestant states (exception: Berlin and Hessen); only one event is celebrated|
|Women's Day||March 8th||Berlin|
|Epiphany||January 6th||Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt|
|Corpus Christi||Thursday 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 Festival||August 8th||City of Augsburg|
|World Children's Day||September 20th||Thuringia|
|Day of Prayer and Repentance||Wednesday before Eternity Sunday and 11 days before the first Sunday in Advent||Saxony|
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 7-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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