Calendar of traditions, festivals, and holidays in German-speaking
Year’s Day) is always a public holiday and tends to be a
quiet day when people are recovering from the Silvester
Heilige Drei Könige Epiphany or Twelfth Night is a public holiday in Austria
and some parts of southern Germany. In some areas, children dress
up as the Three Kings and go from house to house to bless homes for
the coming year and collect money for charity.
Mariä Lichtmess Candlemas is celebrated in the Catholic Church but is not a
Erster April April
Fool’s Day is the time to make an April fool of your family
and friends (jdn. in den April schicken)
or to play an April fool trick (Aprilscherz).
Erster Mai May Day
is a public holiday in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is
celebrated by trade unions as Labour Day, often with rallies and
demonstrations. Many people go on a family outing; in rural areas
maypoles are put up in the villages.
Tag der deutschen Einheit Germany’s national holiday, the Day of German Unity,
commemorates German reunification on 3 October 1990.
Nationalfeiertag Austria’s national holiday.
Reformationstag Reformation Day is a public holiday in some mainly
Protestant parts of Germany and commemorates the
Saints’ Day is a public holiday in Catholic parts of Germany
Souls’ Day is the day when Catholics remember their dead by
visiting the cemeteries to pray and place wreaths, flowers, and
candles on the graves. This is often done on 1 November as
Allerseelen is not a public holiday.
Martin’s Day) is not a public holiday, but in Catholic areas
the charitable saint is commemorated with processions where
children carry lanterns and sing songs. Traditional food includes
the Martinsgans (roast
goose) and Martinsbrezel (a soft
Nikolaustag On the
eve of St Nicholas’ Day, children put out their boots in the
hope of finding presents and fruit, nuts, and sweets in the
morning. St Nicholas is always depicted as looking much like Santa
Claus or Father Christmas.
Weihnachten (Christmas) is a family event in Germany, and preparations
begin with the Adventskranz, an
Advent wreath with four candles. On each Sunday of Advent one more
candle is lit. Christmas decorations are generally very
traditional, with fir branches, candles and wooden Christmas
figurines, which can be bought at the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Typical Christmas baking
includes Stollen or
Christstollen (a rich
fruit bread), Lebkuchen (spicy
honey biscuits), and lots of biscuits in the shape of stars, bells,
etc. The decorated Christmas tree should only be seen by the
children on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve), when presents are given
out. The erster Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day) is a public holiday
in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It tends to be a quiet day
for family gatherings, often with a traditional lunch of goose or
zweiter Weihnachtstag (Boxing Day) is also a public holiday; in
Austria and Switzerland it is called Stephanstag (St
Year’s Eve is not a bank holiday, but firms and shops tend to
close early. Many people celebrate with a party, or a meal with
friends, toasting in the new year at midnight with Sekt (German
sparkling wine), and watching fireworks.
day before Shrove Tuesday is not an official holiday but many
people, especially in the Rhineland, get the day off to take part
in the Karneval celebrations, including masked balls, fancy-dress parties,
and parades. Almost every town has its own carnival prince and
princess. The street parades in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Mainz,
and other cities are attended by thousands of revellers wearing
fancy dress and shown live on television.
Shrove Tuesday is the final day of Fasching (Carnival)
in southern Germany, with processions and fancy-dress parties
similar to Rosenmontag in the northwest. In the far south, ancient
customs to drive out the winter with bells and drums
Wednesday marks the end of the carnival season and the beginning of
Lent. It is celebrated in the Catholic Church but it is not a pubic
Friday is a public holiday and generally quiet. Catholics
traditionally eat fish on this day.
traditions include hiding Easter eggs (often dyed hardboiled eggs,
or the chocolate variety) in the garden for the children,
supposedly left by the Osterhase (Easter
bunny). Ostermontag (Easter Monday) is also a public
(Sunday after Easter) In the Catholic Church, first
communion is traditionally taken on this Sunday.
(second Sunday in May). On Mother’s Day, children of
all ages give their mothers small gifts, cards, or
days after Easter). Ascension Day is a public holiday in Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland. This is also Father’s Day, when
fathers traditionally go out on day trips or pub crawls.
(Whitsun – seventh Sunday after Easter). As
Pfingstmontag (Whit Monday) is a public holiday in Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland, Whitsun is a popular time to have a long
(second Thursday after Whitsun). Corpus Christi is a public
holiday in Austria and in parts of Germany and Switzerland. In
Catholic areas, processions and open-air masses are
Harvest festival is not a legal holiday in Germany, but is
celebrated with church services on the first Sunday in October in
many rural areas. In Switzerland there is a harvest thanksgiving
holiday in mid-September.
Buß- und Bettag
(third Wednesday in November). This day of
‘repentance and prayer’ is a public holiday only in
some parts of Germany.
(second Sunday before the beginning of Advent). In Germany,
this is a national day of mourning to commemorate the dead of both
world wars, and the victims of the Nazis.
(last Sunday before the beginning of Advent). Protestants
remember their dead on this day.
four weeks leading up to Christmas, beginning with the
Sunday in Advent), still have a special significance in Germany,
even for people who are not religious.