German holidays and celebrations

German Holidays and Celebrations

Germany enjoys a number of national and regional public holidays and other festivities that take place throughout the year. Those moving to Germany should familiarize themselves with these days so that they're ready for new customs and holiday traditions and are prepared to join in with the celebrations straight away.

You can find an outline of the major German holidays and festivals (when they are and what they’re about) in this article.

German Holidays 2020

What do people celebrate in Germany?

As a predominantly Christian country, most celebrations and German national holidays are religious festivities. However, Germany also celebrates a number of non-religious events.

What holidays do German people celebrate?

Essential list of German holidays and upcoming holidays:

  • New Year’s Day (Neujahr): January, 1, 2020, Wednesday
  • Three Kings Day (Heilige Drei Könige): January, 6, 2020, Monday
  • Carnival (Karneval): February, 24, 2020, Monday
  • Good Friday (Karfreitag): April, 10, 2020, Friday
  • Easter Monday (Ostermontag): April, 13, 2020, Monday
  • Labour Day (Tag der Arbeit): May, 01, 2020, Friday
  • Mother’s Day (Muttertag): May, 10, 2020, Sunday
  • Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt): May, 21, 2020, Thursday
  • Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag): June, 1, 2020, Monday
  • Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam): June, 11, 2020, Thursday
  • Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt): August, 15, 2020, Saturday
  • Oktoberfest: from September, 19, 2020, Saturday to October, 4, 2020, Sunday  
  • German Unity Day (Tag der deutschen Einheit): October, 03, 2020, Saturday
  • Day of Reformation (Reformationstag): October, 31, 2020, Saturday
  • All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen): November, 01, 2020, Sunday
  • Christmas Eve (Weihnachten): December, 24, 2020, Thursday
  • Christmas Day (Weihnachtstag): December, 25, 2020, Friday
  • Boxing Day (Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag): December, 26, 2020, Saturday

New Year's Day, January, 1

New Year's Day (Neujahr) is a National Holiday and a chance to rest after the festivities of the night before. Bleigießen, a type of fortune-telling, is popular on this day (and on New Year's Eve).

Three Kings Day, January, 6

Also known as the Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Heilige Drei Könige) is the day the German Christmas tree is taken down and child carol singers dressed as kings collect money for charity. It is a public holiday in not all but a few states; namely, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Sachsen.

Carnival, February, 24

Fasching or Karneval in Germany is a period of Carnival celebrations that go on until Ash Wednesday. Notable Carnival parades in Germany take place in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Aachen.

Good Friday, April, 10

Like much of the Christian world, Good Friday (Karfreitag) is a national holiday. Christians attend church, whilst others enjoy the day off.

When is Easter this year?

Easter takes place in Germany from Friday, April the 10th, to Monday, the 13th, in 2020.

Easter Monday, April, 13

Easter Monday (Ostermontag) is also a national holiday. Monday is about spending quality time with family.

Labor Day, May 1st

Labor Day (Tag der Arbeit) on May the 1st is a national holiday in Germany.

How is May Day celebrated in Germany?

May Day, May 1st, in Germany is marked with a blend of pagan rituals and also the celebrations of worker's rights. There are lots of celebrations and parties on the night of the 30th April into the 1st of May; the motto for this night is Tanz in den Mai or “Dance into May”.

Mother's Day, May, 10

Mother's Day (Muttertag) falls on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day is marked by the giving of flowers and cards to one's mother.

Ascension Day, May, 21

Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt), 40 days after Easter, is another National Holiday in Germany. On Ascension Day Christians, most notably Catholics, attend a church service and spend time with family. It's also Father's Day in which groups of male relatives enjoy activities together.

Whit Monday, June, 1

Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag), sometimes referred to as Pentecost Sunday, falls on the 7th Monday after Easter and it means a day off work for German employees. For Catholics, it's a Holy Day of Observance, so in the south and west of the country, many people go to church.

Corpus Christi, June, 11

Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) is another movable feast, which takes place 60 days after Easter. It is not a national holiday but is a regional public holiday in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. In these parts, you may see Catholics head to the streets for a procession after Mass.

Assumption Day, August, 15

Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) is another Christian festival that is mostly observed by Catholics and is, therefore, most visible in the regions to the south and west. In Bavaria and Saarland, in fact, it is a public holiday. The Feast of the Assumption of Mary marks Mary's ascension to heaven. Catholics attend a special Mass service with the giving of Mary's Nuts (walnuts and hazelnuts) to children.

Oktoberfest, September, 19

For many moving to Germany, the idea of the Oktoberfest holiday appeals more than the many religious festivities. With plenty of beer, fairground rides and traditional music, most Oktoberfest events start in late September and run until around October 3rd.

Is Oktoberfest a German holiday?

This month-long affair is not, sadly, a national holiday. However, many people book a day or a week off work to enjoy the festival.

What cities in Germany celebrate Oktoberfest?

Munich is the most famous, with six million visitors each year, but many towns and cities host their own including:

  • Stuttgart
  • Frankfurt
  • Hannover
  • Berlin

German Unity Day, October, 3

The German Unity Day (Tag der deutschen Einheit) is the most important non-religious holiday in Germany. It's a national holiday where Germans are granted the day off work on October 3rd. The holiday was founded in 1990 after the reunification of West and East Germany. Each year, a different city hosts the main ceremonial act, and festivities are enjoyed all over the country.

Day of Reformation, October, 31

The Day of Reformation (Reformationstag) commemorates the day that Martin Luther pinned his thesis to the door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517.

It is recognized by Protestants (especially Lutherans) and is a public holiday in nine of Germany's federal states including Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and Bremen. The day is marked by a special church service or simply by spending time with family and friends.

All Saints' Day, November, 1

All Saints Day (Allerheiligen) on the 1st November is a public holiday in five regions: Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland. It's an important Catholic festival where churchgoers remember the dead.

Christmas Eve, December, 24

The start of the Winter Holidays in Germany. Shops close around midday on Christmas Eve (Weihnachten) and many offices let workers leave early to go home and spend time with family and to enjoy a traditional meal of potato salad and sausages or raclette. Attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to mark the end of advent (which starts on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day) is also popular.

Christmas Day, December, 25

Christmas Day (Weihnachtstag) is undoubtedly the biggest and most important national holiday of the year. In Germany, Christmas Day is marked by both religious and non-secular households.

Christmastree

How does Germany celebrate Christmas?

The Christmas day is centered around a lavish feast with extended family where roast goose or duck are eaten. Families tend to stay at home together, playing games such as hide the pickle - one of the greatest German traditions!

Second Christmas Day (or Boxing Day), December, 26

The day after Christmas, or Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag, is also a public holiday. It is usually spent taking a walk, enjoying another large feast and attending a church service.

Baking Christmas Cookies in Germany

Christmas in Germany

Christmas is likely very important to you and your family, whether you are religious or not. Become familiar with the German Christmas schedule and try to combine the traditions of both Germany and your home country to please the kids and to retain something of home.

What is the most important holiday in Germany?

It's difficult to name the most important holiday in Germany. For Catholics, the religious festivals are all important, whilst Protestants tend to focus more on Easter and Reformation Day. Germany Unity Day is politically and socially significant and is observed all over the country. For almost everyone, however, Christmas in Germany is a very special time.

Christmas Tree

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