Compared to many other countries, Germany has a number of public holidays that can be traced back either to its Christian tradition or to important dates in German history. It is also worth noting that public holidays in Germany can vary from state to state. Here are the most important public holidays in Germany:
- New Year’s Day (January 1): this is the first day of the new year. It is celebrated in most countries around the world.
- Good Friday: A Christian holiday that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It falls on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
- Easter Monday: falls on the day after Easter Sunday. Easter itself is the most important Christian festival, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Labor Day (May 1): Similar to many other countries, this day pays homage to the labor movement and its achievements.
- Ascension Day: this holiday celebrates the return of Jesus Christ to heaven, 40 days after Easter.
- Pentecost Monday: celebrated 50 days after Easter, this holiday marks the sending of the Holy Spirit as described in the New Testament.
- Corpus Christi: Celebrated only in some states. This Catholic holiday honors the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
- German Unity Day (October 3): This day celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- Reformation Day (October 31): Celebrated primarily in the northern and central German states and commemorates the Reformation of the church by Martin Luther in 1517.
- All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1): A Catholic holiday commemorating all saints, known and unknown.
- Christmas (December 25 and 26): As in most Christian countries, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
There are also some holidays that are celebrated only in certain states, such as Assumption Day or Epiphany.
In Germany, there are some special features that apply on public holidays that differ significantly from a normal working day. Here are some of these special features:
- Day off: public holidays are generally non-working days in Germany. When a holiday falls on a workday, most employees have a day off. There are, of course, exceptions, e.g., in health care, police, firefighters, or other areas considered “systemically important.”
- Sunday and holiday pay: many employees who are required to work on a holiday receive a holiday pay supplement as compensation. This supplement is governed by collective bargaining agreements or employment contracts and varies by industry.
- Store opening hours: Stores are closed on most public holidays in Germany. There are some exceptions, such as bakeries, which are allowed to be open for a few hours on certain holidays, or gas stations and stores in train stations and airports. But in general, commerce is quiet on holidays.
- Dancing ban: In some federal states, there is a ban on dancing on certain silent holidays (e.g. Good Friday). This means that public dancing events may not take place. However, the ban on dancing is controversial and is less strictly enforced in some states than in others.
- Noise restrictions: Strict noise restrictions apply on certain silent holidays in some states. This means that noisy activities such as lawn mowing or construction work are prohibited.
- Holiday postponement: If a holiday falls on a Sunday, it is not postponed to the next working day in Germany, as is the case in some other countries. The holiday remains on the day it falls.
- Regional differences: As mentioned above, the number and type of public holidays varies from state to state. A holiday that is considered a public holiday in one state may be a normal work day in another state.
These peculiarities are of interest to many foreigners, as they often differ from the regulations in their home countries. Especially for people from countries with a different religious or cultural character, the German holiday regulations can be an exciting discovery.