In Germany, each federal state sets its own public holidays, and they vary quite a bit from one state to another. Unlike in the UK, where public holidays are often only called ‘bank holidays’ and don’t have a specific theme, public holidays in Germany are often associated with religious celebration days or days of national significance. However, German Unity Day is the only truly national holiday.
- Public holiday dates in Germany
- Why do German states have such different holidays?
- German school holidays
- Unofficial German holidays
Public holiday dates in Germany
Here is an overview of the regular public holidays in Germany, along with when they occur. Some dates, like Easter, shift each year and it’s best to check. It’s worth noting that when a holiday falls on a Sunday, Germans don’t get the next day off work.
|German public holiday||Date||Federal state|
|New Year’s Day (Neujahr)||January 1||All|
|Epiphanie (Heilige Drei Könige)||January 6||Baden-WürttembergBavariaSaxony-Anhalt|
|Women’s Day (Frauentag)||March 8||Berlin|
|Good Friday (Karfreitag)||Varies||All|
|Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag)||Varies: The Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinox||Brandenburg|
|Easter Monday (Ostermontag)||Varies||All|
|Labor Day (Tag der Arbeit)||May 1||All|
|Ascension (Christi Himmelfahrt)||Varies: 40 days after Easter||All|
|Whitsunday (Pfingstsonntag)||Varies: 7th Sunday after Easter||Brandenburg|
|Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam)||Varies: Thursday after Trinity Sunday||Baden-WürttembergBavariaHesseNorth Rhine-WestphaliaRhineland-PalatinateSaarland|
|Assumption Day (Marïa Himmelfahrt)||Varies||BavariaSaarland|
|World Children’s Day (Weltkindertag)||September 20||Thuringia|
|German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit)||October 3||All|
|Reformation Day (Reformationstag)||October 31||BrandenburgBremenHamburgMecklenburg-VorpommernLower SaxonySaxonySaxony-AnhaltSchleswig-HolsteinThuringia|
|All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen)||November 1||Baden-WürttembergBavariaNorth Rhine-WestphaliaRhineland-PalatinateSaarland|
|Day of Prayer and Repentance (Buß- und Bettag)||Varies||Saxony|
|Christmas Day (Erster Weihnachtstag)||December 25||All|
|Boxing Day (Zweiter Weihnachtstag)||December 26||All|
Why do German states have such different holidays?
Mainly, it has to do with religion. Despite most Germans saying religion doesn’t play an important role in their lives, one of the main political parties is the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and most of their holidays are based on religious festivals. However, the country is roughly split between Protestant Christians and Catholics, with a very clear geographical divide. As reported in the 2011 German census, the south of Germany is predominantly Catholic, and the northwest is predominantly Protestant. The former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is overwhelmingly not religious.
You can see this in the public holidays – Catholic celebrations like All Saints’ Day, Corpus Christi and Epiphanie are all public holidays in southern states, but Reformation Day is unsurprisingly only a public holiday in the northern states. Secular holidays like German Unity Day and Labor Day are celebrated by all the states.
German school holidays
The German school holidays are also set by each federal state. They attempt to stagger the summer holiday dates so popular travel destinations aren’t overrun, the earliest start is in mid-June. German schoolchildren get six standard holiday breaks in a school year.
|Name of holiday||Length|
|Autumn holiday (Herbstferien)||Two weeks|
|Christmas holiday (Weihnachtsferien)||About two weeks|
|Winter holiday or Carnival holiday (Winterferien, Faschingsferien)||Varies, up to two weeks|
|Easter holiday (Osterferien)||Two to three weeks|
|Whitsun holiday (Pfingstferien)||Varies, up to two weeks|
|Summer holidays (Sommerferien)||Six to seven weeks|
Unofficial German holidays
There are a few days in the calendar that some Germans celebrate, even if they aren’t technically a public holiday. Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas’ Day) on December 5th is when children put their clean shoes out in hopes of some chocolate the next morning. Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) is when most German people exchange presents, and you will find most shops will either shut at midday or not open at all. Rosenmontag (Carnival Monday) is a big day in the states that celebrate Karneval (Carnival), sometimes called Fastnacht or Fasching, depending on where you are. Schools in the Rhineland sometimes have this day off, but it’s not an official public holiday.
Because so many holidays are tied to the religious calendar, they don’t necessarily neatly fall on a Friday or a Monday. To take advantage of a holiday on a Thursday, for example, you will notice many Germans will take a Brückentag (bridge day), a day off on that Friday, so they have a four-day weekend. This is very common, and schools will often do this as well.
Keeping the German public holiday dates straight
If you’re not an observant Christian, the dates of the German public holidays can be very confusing and take you by surprise. It’s important to keep on top of them because grocery stores and other shops will be closed, and you don’t want to run out of food! Discussing upcoming holidays is a great way to practice your German dates too.
Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favorite activity, along with sewing, cooking, and weaving. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.