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By law, "the Sundays and the public holidays remain protected as days of rest from work and of spiritual elevation" (Art. 139 WRV, part of the German constitution via Art. 140 GG). Thus all Sundays are, in a manner, public holidays – but usually not understood by the term "holiday" (except for, normally, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday).
Public holidays apart from the Sundays (there must be some of them constitutionally) can be declared by law by either the Federation or the Länder for their respective jurisdictions. By federal law, only the German Unity Day is made a holiday at present (Unity Treaty, Art. 2 sect. 2); the others, even the ones celebrated all over Germany, are made holidays by state legislation.
List by state
✔ – Public holiday is celebrated in that state.
- Public holiday only in few Sorbian communities.
- Public holiday only in the Catholic district of Eichsfeld.
- Public holiday only in the city of Augsburg.
- Public holiday only in approx. 1700 communities with predominantly Catholic population and in the cities of Augsburg and Munich.
- Schools are closed all over the state on that day.
- From 2019 onwards.
- One-time public holiday in all states, including those not normally observing Reformation Day, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
- Four states adopted the Reformation Day as permanent holiday starting in 2018 (Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein (see table for references)).
- Public holiday in all states until 1994. The holiday was discontinued with introduction of nursing care insurance. Saxony is the only state where employers do not have to pay for nursing care insurance (paid by employees in that state) and where the holiday is still kept.
- For states where some holidays are not observed uniformly all over the state, such holidays are included in the state's total number of holidays if their celebration is predominant and widespread in that state:
In addition, the state of Brandenburg formally declared Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday as public holidays. As these are Sundays anyway, they have been left out by the other states, nor counted in the table above (the state of Hesse even declared all Sundays public holidays).
A couple of days are designated stille Tage (quiet days) by state legislation, which regularly means that public dancing events, music at inns (if live or if not much quieter than usual) etc. are prohibited.
Some public holidays are quiet days:
- Good Friday
- Prayer and Repentance Day (where it is a public holiday and in a couple of other states)
- All Saints (where it is a public holiday)
One de facto public holiday (not determined by law, because it is always on a Sunday, but with officially organized celebrations) is a quiet day:
One other Sunday is a quiet day:
- Totensonntag (the German-Protestant equivalent of All Souls Day), on the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year
Some days may be quiet days without being public holidays:
- Christmas Eve (beginning in the afternoon, in some states)
- Ash Wednesday (in Bavaria)
- Holy Thursday (in some states; in some of them beginning in the evening)
- Holy Saturday (in some states)
- All Souls' Day (in Lower Saxony and the Saarland)
In a limited number of cases – apart from All Saints which, however, has long been associated in popular understanding with remembrance of the dead. The status of quiet days is also given to festivities joyous in nature: in Hesse, the highest Christian holidays are half-quiet days (until midday) and in Rhineland-Palatinate, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day are two-thirds-quiet days (until 16 o'clock). For details see the German article on the dancing ban.
A yet third category that may, sometimes, be called "holidays" in a sense are the "flag days" (Beflaggungstage). Only the very highest institutions, and the military, use the national flags at every day, so the directives when flags are to be displayed mark the days in question as special.
Flags are to be shown by Federal Decree on
- Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January, half-mast)
- Labour Day (1 May)
- Europe Day (9 May)
- Constitution Day (23 May)
- Uprising Day (17 June) This day was public holiday under the title of "German Unity Day" from 1954 until 1990 when that unity actually was achieved.
- World Refugee Day (20 June)
- German Unity Day (3 October)
- Memorial Day (half-mast) (two Sundays before the first day of Advent)
- Election Day (Bundestag, European Parliament)
and by state decrees on other days, such as election days for state parliaments, state constitution days, anniversary of the election of the Federal President (in Berlin) and so forth.
Frequently flags are ordered ad hoc to be shown at half-mast in cases of national mourning.
Also, Christmas Eve is developing into a semi-holiday: from mid-afternoon it is practically treated as a holiday, and while shops still open in the morning, for other businesses (apart from those that work even on holidays) this is becoming increasingly unusual; schools are closed in any case.
Customs about holidays
Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt) and Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) are both always on Thursdays. By taking only one day's leave, employees can have a four-day weekend.
Public holidays in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
|New Year||Neujahr||1 January|
|Good Friday||Karfreitag||Easter Sunday – 2d|
|Easter Monday||Ostermontag||Easter Sunday + 1d||until 1967 and in 1990|
|Labour Day||Internationaler Kampf- und Feiertag
der Werktätigen für Frieden und Sozialismus
|Liberation Day||Tag der Befreiung||8 May||until 1967 and in 1985|
|Victory Day||Tag des Sieges||9 May||only in 1975|
|Ascension Day||Christi Himmelfahrt||Easter Sunday + 39d||until 1967 and in 1990|
|Whit Monday||Pfingstmontag||Easter Sunday + 50d|
|Day of the Republic||Tag der Republik||7 October|
|Reformation Day||Reformationstag||31 October||until 1966|
|Day of Repentance and Prayer||Buß- und Bettag||Wed. before 23 November||until 1966|
|Christmas Day||1. Weihnachtsfeiertag||25 December|
|St Stephen's Day / Boxing Day||2. Weihnachtsfeiertag||26 December|
- "Frauentag wird gesetzlicher Feiertag". berlin.de (in German). 11 February 2019. Archived from the original on 18 June 2021. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
- "Thüringen bekommt neuen Feiertag". 28 February 2019.
- Weser-Kurier. "Reformationstag wird Feiertag in Bremen" (in German). Retrieved 20 June 2018.
- NDR (28 February 2018). "Hamburg hat einen neuen Feiertag" (in German). Archived from the original on 3 February 2019.
- NDR (19 June 2018). "Beschlossen: Reformationstag wird neuer Feiertag" (in German). Archived from the original on 9 July 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "Schleswig-Holstein hat einen neuen Feiertag" (in German). NDR. 22 February 2018. Archived from the original on 3 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2018.