What are the public holidays in Germany?

What are the public holidays in Germany?

by Erin McGann

Updated May 17, 2022

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.

Learn languages at your pace


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 holidayDateFederal state
New Year’s Day (Neujahr)January 1All
Epiphanie (Heilige Drei Könige)January 6Baden-WürttembergBavariaSaxony-Anhalt
Women’s Day (Frauentag)March 8 Berlin
Good Friday (Karfreitag)VariesAll
Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag)Varies: The Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinoxBrandenburg
Easter Monday (Ostermontag)VariesAll
Labor Day (Tag der Arbeit)May 1 All
Ascension (Christi Himmelfahrt)Varies: 40 days after EasterAll
Whitsunday (Pfingstsonntag)Varies: 7th Sunday after EasterBrandenburg
Whitmonday (Pfingstmontag)VariesAll
Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam)Varies: Thursday after Trinity SundayBaden-WürttembergBavariaHesseNorth Rhine-WestphaliaRhineland-PalatinateSaarland
Assumption Day (Marïa Himmelfahrt)VariesBavariaSaarland
World Children’s Day (Weltkindertag)September 20Thuringia
German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit)October 3All
Reformation Day (Reformationstag)October 31BrandenburgBremenHamburgMecklenburg-VorpommernLower SaxonySaxonySaxony-AnhaltSchleswig-HolsteinThuringia
All Saints’ Day (Allerheiligen)November 1Baden-WürttembergBavariaNorth Rhine-WestphaliaRhineland-PalatinateSaarland
Day of Prayer and Repentance (Buß- und Bettag)VariesSaxony
Christmas Day (Erster Weihnachtstag)December 25All
Boxing Day (Zweiter Weihnachtstag)December 26All

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. 

Learn languages at your pace

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 holidayLength
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.

Brückentag

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.

Learn languages at your pace

 


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.

Related articles