Ascension Day in Germany is an important Christian holiday marking the ascension of Christ into heaven on the 40th day after Easter Sunday. It’s also a public holiday widely used to go on a short vacation. Most prominently though, the day has evolved into a kind of Father’s Day in Germany, with groups of men gathering for a special day out and usually heavy drinking. Surprised? We’ll take you back in time to see how Ascension Day took such a dramatic turn and what Germans do on their free day.
- Is Ascension Day a public holiday in Germany?
- What is Ascension Day?
- How is Ascension Day celebrated in Germany?
- Ascension Day and Father’s Day in Germany
Is Ascension Day a public holiday in Germany?
First things first. Ascension Day is a public holiday in Germany meaning that all workplaces and schools are closed. A few Germans employed in gastronomy and tourism will still have to show up to work though. If you are among those who have the day off, bear in mind that Ascension Day in Germany always falls on a Thursday. So if you take Friday off and add the weekend, you have four days to relax or go on an quick adventure. This is common practice across Germany. So much so that there is a German word for the day between a public holiday and a weekend: Brückentag (literally “bridge day”). Some Germans even take off the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day. With the preceding weekend, this makes for nine free days. A good alternative to a summer holiday, if you want to avoid the crowded peak season.
What is Ascension Day?
Germany is a predominantly Christian country and the public holidays reflect this. The day marks one of the central events in Christian theology: Christ’s ascension to heaven. Ascension Day or in German Christi Himmelfahrt is part of the Easter Season (or Eastertide), which starts on Easter Sunday with Christ’s resurrection, followed by his traveling and preaching with the Apostles and his ascension to heaven on the 40th day. In the Catholic Church, the Easter Season ends ten days later on the 50th day of Easter with the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles on Pentecost. Ascension Day is not only a holiday in Germany but also in other countries with Christian traditions such as the Netherlands or the United States. The forms of celebrations may vary though.
How is Ascension Day celebrated in Germany?
The religious traditions around this holiday are mostly observed in rural areas strongly connected to their catholic roots, for example in Bavaria. The celebrations include putting out the Easter candle, holding special church services, the blessing of fruits and vegetables and most notably processions called Öschprozession or Flurprozession. Torches and religious banners are carried across the fields and four different Bible texts are recited at four stations of the procession. But the celebrations on Ascension Day have another side, too, and it has long taken over the religious traditions.
Ascension Day and Father’s Day in Germany
Ascension Day in Germany is more prominently known as Father’s Day (Vatertag) or Men’s Day (Männertag). In the 18th century, Jesus’ return to his father in heaven was celebrated by men being placed in carts and headed to the town center. Here, the man who had fathered the most children would be awarded a prize. The 20th century saw a decline in religion and a transformation of the festivities into a celebration of “manliness” with hiking, smoking, eating ham and drinking beer. After women got to celebrate Mother’s Day on the 13th of May 1923 for the first time, men claimed Ascension Day as Father’s Day. Now the beer (and other kinds of booze) is carried in the carts. The heavy drinking on Father’s Day is such a prominent feature of the celebrations, that it became a problem. The statistics show a steep rise in traffic accidents and acts of violence on this religious holiday.
Ascension Day in Germany: Three ways to celebrate
How Ascension Day is celebrated in Germany partly depends on where you live. The public holiday actually has a very important place in the Christian calendar and religious celebrations can still be observed in rural parts of the country. For most Germans though, the day is mainly known as Father’s Day and an occasion for men to take a break from their family life and have a few drinks. Of course, there is no need to observe this kind of celebration. You could just take the day off and make good use of your free time. How about studying German or exploring some of the famous German castles?