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Holidays in Germany - Deutschland "Feiertag",


In America, they have many holidays, Thanksgiving , Christmas and New Year.

What about Germany? what are the holidays in there? Do they celebrate Halloween, trick or treat or Mardi Gras?

June 28, 2018



There are a number of statutary holidays where people don't go to work (except, of course, the police, nurses and suchlike) and shops have to remain closed: New Year's Day (1 Jan), Epiphany (6 Jan, only in a few federal states), Good Friday /Easter Sunday / Easter Monday (March/April), May Day / labor holiday (1 May), Ascension Day (May), Pentecost / Whit Monday (May/June), Corpus Christi (only in some states, May/June), Assumption Day (15 Aug, only in one and a half states), Day of German Unity (3 Oct) (the National Holiday of Austria is on 26 Oct, the Bundesfeier in Switzerland on 1 Aug), Reformation Day (31 Oct) or All Saints' Day (1 Nov) (most states have one of these), Day of Prayer and Repentance (Nov), and Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25/26 Dec)...

...not Christmas Eve, which is, however, the day when Christmas is celebrated in Germany. Depending on the region (and the degree of US influence), either the Christkind (female) or the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Clause) visit the house around 5 pm and lay down presents under the Christmas tree.
New Year's Eve is no statutory holiday either, but is celebrated with fireworks.

In Austria they've got Assumption on 15 Aug and Immaculate Conception Day on 8 Dec as statutory holidays, but not Good Friday.

Add to that a few more church holidays that are on Sundays anyway (and thus people don't go to work anyway), so they're only relevant for religious people (so, only a minority).

Church holidays aren't usually celebrated. The odd Corpus Christi procession in catholic regions is visible to the outsider, and on All Souls' Day (2 Nov, catholic) or Totensonntag (day for remembrance of the dead, protestant, Nov) cemeteries sport a lot of burning candles in the evening, but apart from that, I think only Easter is generally celebrated: on Good Friday, you traditionally eat fish (traditionally you'd have to fast from carnival to Easter, so no meat (fish doesn't count as meat, for some reason); these days some people fast for e.g. health reasons, or they do e.g. "mobile phone fasting" = no mobile use during Lent time; anyway the "no meat, but fish" rule still has survived for Good Friday), and in Bavaria partying (or showing "The Life of Brian") is still forbidden on Good Friday night to commemorate the death of Jesus. On Sunday, the Easter Bunny traditionally hides little baskets filled with paper grass and boiled and coloured eggs in the garden; today some children get expensive presents. There's a few other old customs as well, like a sort of egg fight where people push their hard-boiled eggs against each other and see which remains intact in the end.

On a few other days, in some regions, you might spot small customs like putting out tiny birch trees on the streets on Candlemass Day (Lichtmess, 2 Feb) or gathering herb bouquets on Assumption Day (15 Aug).

The only non-statutory holidays that are actually celebrated (and that come to mind) would be

  • carnival (Rosenmontag, Faschingsdienstag) in February. In the Rhine region (Mainz, Cologne, ...), there are huge festivities and parades in the streets with people dressed up in costumes. In my region, for example, only children actually dress up with costumes (in my town they come together in the market square, their costumes all hidden underneath thick jackets, and do a small round of the city center (I think), or go to a "party" at the mall); for grown-ups there are some theoretically carnival-themed events at the usual venues (clubs and suchlike), but they're really just an excuse to party, and people might wear a funny hat at the most.

  • In a few other places, people traditionally dress up, too, either during carnival or at other times of the year, to "drive off winter". They use very old costume designs, often with wooden masks (often terrifying ones), maybe with a lot of little bits of cloth and bells on their costumes. In Austria, for example, there are Perchten runs (Perchtenlauf): people dressed up in terrifying costumes run through the streets and hit onlookers with sticks (well, they don't really, not anymore).

  • Nikolaustag (6 Dec) is when children put boots out and the Nikolaus (mostly envisioned like Santa Clause these days, but orginally like the bishop Saint Nicholas) puts small presents in (oranges, nuts, sweets...). In Austria, he's accompanied by the Krampus, his "evil" counterpart, who, while the Nikolo gives presents to the good children, carries off the bad children in his sack. In my region (traditionally protestant), we traditionally celebrate St. Martin's Day instead (11 Nov), when the boots are filled with presents from St. Martin and small children gather in the evening to walk around with (traditionally self-made) lanterns, and in my town there used to be a St. Martin on a horse as well who handed out goose-shaped cookies to the children (because geese are traditionally eaten on that day).

Halloween is something that's been seeping in from American culture, a lot of shops offer Halloween decoration, Halloween-themed snacks, or even costumes, and a few children will try trick-or-treating, but I think people are very rarely prepared for their visit. There's some opposition against Halloween, too, seeing as Reformation Day is on the same day, and some religious people are afraid of having that taken away from them, and a number of less religious people also think that since Halloween is not originally part of our culture, we shouldn't be adapting it.


Thank you for taking the time to write this. :)


Thank you Stepintime for your superb article.


Schöne Zusammenfassung! Aber das Christkind ist weiblich? Bei mir war es immer sächlich oder undefiniert, aber ich bin auch kein Katholik.....


Ich auch nicht :)

Wikipedia sagt, "Ursprünglich eine protestantische Tradition, ist die Idee des Christkinds heute überwiegend in katholischen Gegenden verbreitet, vor allem in Süd- und Westdeutschland, im Elsass, in Luxemburg, Österreich und Oberschlesien im heutigen Polen, Südtirol, der Deutschschweiz, Ungarn, Tschechien, der Slowakei, Slowenien und in Kroatien sowie in Südbrasilien." (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christkind)

Personally, I've come across the female Christkind in Austria, I think in catholic Old Bavaria as well, and a well-known Christkind is that of protestant Nuremberg (Franconia, in the north of today's federal state of Bavaria). As a small (protestant) child, I imagined her to look about maybe eight years old; the Christkinder you see at Christmas markets are generally portrayed by teenagers of 16-19 years, with long blond locks, white dress (likely with some golden bits, maybe a fabric with a pattern of golden stars), optional wings, sometimes accompanied by assistants (Rauschgoldengel in Nuremberg, in other places little girls in white dresses). As for gender, I can't really decide about using "she" or "it" in English, in German I just stick with "es = das -kind"...

Baby Jesus is called "das Jesuskind" instead, the way I see it, but the Christkind is, apparently, in some strange way thought to be identical with baby Jesus, although obviously the Christkind appears as a very different character; if you're not familiar with the Christkind, you'd likely mistake it for an angel.


I just wanted to say I'm not very familiar with the tradition of the Christkind, saying I'm not catholic. But it seems like the "character" of the Christkind is neutral, while it's usually represented by girls, see for example here: https://www.n-tv.de/wissen/Was-ist-das-Christkind-article4998351.html The misinterpretation as baby Jesus is apparently very common, but then it would be male. Even more funny that it's actually a protestant invention, in order to substitute Santa Claus.

Anyway, it's not a serious discussion for me, more something like "Oh, you just ruined my childhood memory!" XD.... In my family (also in the catholic parts), nobody has ever seen the Christkind, because it will only bring presents if you don't watch, so there is not even the need for someone to "play" the Christkind, as it's just a nice excuse to send away the children while the parents put the presents under the tree... Girls playing the Christkind is something that I just know from Christmas markets.

PS: recently I learned an Italian expression, that is "discutere del sesso degli angeli", which fits quite well here :-)....


Anyway, it's not a serious discussion for me

I'm not religious, in case you were worried about that :) - so, of course, just discussing in a civilised way and everything.

True, you don't get a Christkind in your own house. When it visits, there's a bright bell sounding, and that's when the children are allowed into the room where the decorated tree and the presents are, but the Christkind, of course, is already gone... (Anyway that's how it was done in my family.) Until then, there's a children's programme on TV called "Warten aufs Christkind". Or a church service, alternatively :)


The German word for these special days is "Feiertag", not "Urlaub". "Urlaub" is 1) the leave you get from work and 2) vacation


Thank you for your comment. Have a great weekend.

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