“Holidays” the word brings many thoughts to mind such as: day off, bbq, swimming, party,family time, presents,holiday pay, food, beer, celebration. In the U.S today is Labor Day which for the most part means quite a few businesses are closed, and there are an abundance of drunk college students on the river and others seeking the relaxing freshness of a cold water hole. Many people are having bbq’s or just enjoying an extra day home with the family to take care of much-needed tasks.
We have quite a few holidays here in the states, but I’ve never seen as many reasons for celebration as I did in Germany. Some of the celebrations such as Easter, Valentines Day, and Mother’s Day, are similar to the states.. Many of the celebrations are religious and the rest of them are national/public holidays. No matter what the reason.. Germans love to party!!
Germany is separated by states and the different states sometimes have different holidays/celebrations. Here are some examples of holidays in Germany:
- Fasching a.k.a Carnival: The easiest description would be that it’s basically a German version of Mardi Gras or a very extended Halloween. This is a time period full of costumes, candy, parades, parties, and comedy shows. Everyone dresses up from babies to older citizens. It is officially called ‘the fifth season’ and begins Nov 11 at 11:11 when the “Council of the Eleven” come together and plan the events of the season. The actual celebrations begin 40 days before Easter and end at the beginning of Lent. It’s definitely a happening time in Germany. Music in the streets and people dressed as cows, aliens, cowboys, and so forth walking down the road at all hours.
- Heilige Drei Könige a.ka. Three Kings: A public holiday held on January 6th.
- Christi Himmelfahrt: Basically considered to be the day that Jesus ascended to heaven. This day is a public holiday. It occurs 40 days after Easter.
- Father’s Day a.k.a Vater’s Tag: Very different from the U.S. version this holiday was originally created to celebrate “God, the Father”. It is on the same day as Christi Himmelfahrt. The holiday turned into a day of drinking for men. It gave the holiday a bad name for quite a while. Today, many men opt to make it a family day much like the western world. The day is often a school and work holiday.
- Easter a.k.a Ostern,Pfingsten a.k.a Pentecost: Celebrated like the Western world this holiday is a 2 week vacation for school children in many German states. A number of public holidays and religious events are connected to this time period
- Maria Himmelfahrt a.k.a. assumption of Mary: This is a religious holiday held on August 15th in Saarland and Bavaria. Many post offices, businesses and banks are closed on this day.
- German Unity Day: A public holiday on October 3rd commemorating the reunification of Germany.
- Halloween: Although Halloween isn’t a German holiday it has been adopted by many. Children do not go trick or treating, but you will often see carved pumpkins and parties.
- All Saints. All Souls: Celebrated on Nov 1st and Nov 2nd these are religious days when many bring flowers to the grave of dead loved ones.
- Erntedankfest a.k.a German Thanksgiving: This usually occurs in late September or Early October. This is a highly religious day and is not celebrated in the same way as western cultures. It is typically not a day of family and food, but more of a religious event.
These are just a few of the holidays that I came across. There are many more festivals and events depending on where you live in Germany. I still remember staying in Northern Germany while working temporarily for a friend as a Nanny. I heard the sound of a band and looked outside only to find a marching band coming down our street. It turns out that it was a local holiday called Schützenfest. It’s basically a shooting festival. There is a competition and the winner is the King for the year. So basically in summation…men, drinking, and shooting. They have marching bands, and parades leading to the event. I noticed that many of the people who were heading to the event later were well dressed as there was also a ball. The rest of the evening was filled with the sounds of nearby festivities.
In a later blog I will discuss the different customs around Christmas and New Year.
If you find yourself in Germany during one of these many holidays you will be in for a rare treat. Seeing all the different customs of this unique culture is truly captivating. I’m sure you will find that there are endless discoveries to be made.