German and Bavarian Holidays ( Feiertage )
Jan 1 New Year's Day ( Neujahr ) Public Holiday
Custom: People greet each other with the phrase “Ein gutes Neues Jahr!” or “Frohes Neues Jahr”.
Jan 6 Epiphany ( Heilige Drei Könige ) Public Holiday
In Christianity, it is the 12 th day after Christmas, commemorating the visit of the Magi to Jesus and marking the end of the Christmas season. Custom : Children dressed as the three Magi and called star singers ( Sternsinger ) go from house to house singing and collecting money for poor people. They will write “C+M+B,” which both stands for Christus mansionem benedictam (Christ, bless this house) and the initials of the king's names (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) with the year above your door, which supposedly brings good luck.
Feb 14 Valentine's Day ( Valentinstag)
This is a new tradition adopted from USA several years ago to celebrate love and friendship.
Feb Carnival ( Fasching ) Public Holiday
The Fasching actually starts on Nov, 11 at 11.11 with the inauguration of the Faschings princess and prince (every city/area has its own Prinzenpaar , as well as a children's pair). The Faschingssaison reaches its peak in January and February with many balls (In other areas of Germany, there will be Faschingssitzungen and huge parades.) The fun ends with parades and dancing in the streets on the following days:
Crazy Thursday/women's carnival ( Weiberfastnacht/Unsinninger Donnerstag)
Custom: In some offices, women will cut off the ties of their male colleagues (this custom is more prominent in the Rhine area).
Rosenmontag – Rose Monday
Faschingsdienstag – Shrove Tuesday No school, shops close at noon
Custom: At Munich's Viktualienmarkt the famous dance of the sales women ( Tanz der Marktfrauen ) is held annually at around 11.00. Everyone dresses up, and the crowd gets very large. Many villages or towns have parades organized on Monday or Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday evening ( Kehraus) , literally the sweeping out, marks the end of Fasching and the beginning of lent. This is also known as pancake day in England.
Aschermittwoch – Ash Wednesday
This is the beginning of the 40 days of Lent before Easter. Custom: Many Germans enjoy delicious fish dishes at home or in restaurants.
Mar 20 Beginning of Spring ( Frühjahrsanfang)
Late Mar Beginning of Summertime ( Sommerzeit ) On the last Saturday night in March, clocks are changed to “summertime” in Europe, one hour forward.
Mar/Apr Palm Sunday ( Palmsonntag)
A Christian holiday, observed on the Sunday before Easter and the first day of the Holy Week. It commemorates Christ's entry into Jerusalem, as relayed in the Bible in which palm branches were spread in his path. Custom: People carry bunches of willow tree branches and catkins ( Weidekätzchen ) in processions. These bunches are consecrated at the church and are supposed to provide a blessing for people's homes.
Apr 1 April Fool's Day ( 1. April)
Custom: On this day people play jokes on each other. Afterwards they say “April, April!”
Mar/Apr Easter ( Ostern )
Custom: People place willow or forsythia branches in vases and hang colorfully painted eggs on them.
Maundy Thursday ( Gründonnerstag )
Commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples .
Good Friday ( Karfreitag ) Public Holiday
Commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus. Custom: People eat fish.
Easter Sunday ( Ostersonntag)
Feast of Jesus' resurrection, Sunday after the first full moon after the start of spring, ends the 40 days of Lent. Custom: Easter egg hunts are very popular with children.
Easter Monday ( Ostermontag) Public Holiday
White Sunday ( Weißer Sonntag) The Sunday after Easter, when people who were baptized at Easter wore their white baptismal robes for the first time. Today it is often the day for the Catholic First Communion.
Apr 31 Witch's Night ( Walpurgisnacht)
Custom: In the evening children and youths will go around their neighborhood emptying trash bins, rolling toilet paper around cars, and/or playing other pranks. Some clubs ( Verine ) offer a “Dance into May” ( Tanz in den Mai ) to celebrate and welcome the arrival of spring.
May 1 May Day ( 1. Mai) Public Holiday
Folk Holiday welcoming the spring, saying farewell to the winter.
Custom: In Bavaria Maypoles are raised and there are lots of festivities.
Also Labor Day – honoring the working people.
May Mother's Day ( Muttertag)
Always the second Sunday in May.
May 12-15 Ice Saints Day ( Die Eisheiligen)
Tius, Servatius, Bonifatius and Kalte Sophie . In Bavaria one does not plant summer flowers before this date, because until then you still can still expect frost at night.
May Ascension Day ( Christi Himmelfahrt) Public Holiday
Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven 40 days after his resurrection. It always falls on a Thursday. This is also the German Father's Day. Custom: Traditional men's outing for a hike or just a bike ride to a beer garden. Fathers do not get presents, their present is the outing.
May/June Pentecost Whitsunday ( Pfingsten )
50 days after Easter, it is the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Christian church. Also called Whitsunday by Anglicans from the custom of baptizing white robed believers on this day.
Pfingstsonntag and Pfingstmontag Public Holiday
June Feast of Corpus Christ ( Fronleichnam) Public Holiday
In Bavaria, it is also known as Anlasstag, old German for the Body of the Lord ( Vronlichnam) . It is the festival in honor of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Custom: Processions through the streets in which the Corpus Christ (consecrated bread) is carried on the way to morning mass. The streets are decorated with fresh greens from birches and other trees. On Staffelsee near Murnau and on Chiemsee, there are colorful boat processions.
June 21 Beginning of Summer ( Sommeranfang)
June 24 Midsummerday ( Johannistag/Mittsommernacht)
Commemorating the birthday of St. John. Custom: bonfires in some areas.
June 24 Seven Sleepers of Ephesus ( Siebenschläfer)
Custom: Belief that if it rains on that day, it will rain for the next seven weeks, meaning a very wet summer.
Aug 15 Maria's Ascension ( Mariä Himmelfahrt) Public Holiday
Commemorating Mary's ascension into heaven. Custom: Candle-procession to church in the evening
Sep 22 Beginning of Autumn ( Herbstanfang)
Sep/Oct Thanksgiving Day ( Erntedank)
Harvest festival, dates differ in various Catholic churches; Protestants celebrate it in October. Custom: Altar in church is decorated with flowers and harvested goods.
Oct 3 German Unification Day ( Tag der Deutschen Einheit) Public Holiday
Commemorating the day when the contract for the reunification was signed.
Late Oct Consecration Day of Church ( Kirchweihsonntag)
Custom: The season for roasted goose starts, one of the favorite
meals from now until Christmas; the other special day for eating goose is St. Martin's Day.
Late Oct End of Summertime . In Europe daylight saving time ends the last Saturday night in October. Clocks are turned back one hour.
Oct 31 Reformation Day ( Reformationstag)
Anniversary of the day in 1517 when Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation.
Nov 1 All Saints' Day ( Allerheiligen) Public Holiday
Commemoration of all saints. In medieval England this festival was known as All Hallows, and its eve is still known as Halloween, which has only recently begun to be celebrated in Germany. Custom: Catholic graveyards are decorated and blessed.
Nov 2 All Souls' Day ( Allerseelen)
In Catholic churches, commemoration of all the faithful, those baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory because they died with guilt of lesser sins on their souls. Supposedly, the prayers of the faithful on earth will speed the cleansing of these souls allowing a swifter entry to heaven.
Nov 11 St. Martin's Day ( Martinstag)
Commemoration Day of St. Martin of Tours, patron of the poor and the soldiers. Custom: Little children parade through the streets carrying self-made lanterns and singing seasonal songs. The parade is often led by an adult on horseback, dressed as St. Martin, in a red coat and wearing a helmet. In some areas the parade ends with a bonfire and children are given a baked St. Martin's figure or St. Martin's Brezel . This day is also the official beginning of Fasching .
Nov National mourning day ( Volkstrauertag)
Always on the second Sunday before first Advent. German national mourning day since 1952, commemorating the victims of the two World Wars and the Nazi Regime.
Nov Day of Repentance and Prayer ( Buß- und Bettag) No school
Protestant holiday, Wednesday before the last day of the church year, which starts on the first Sunday of Advent.
Late Nov Totensonntag/Ewigkeitssonntag
Last Sunday in November. Protestant holiday, commemorating all departed relatives and loved ones by visiting their graves and decorating them with flowers
Nov/Dec Advent ( 1. Advent) (from Latin Adventus meaning arrival)
Beginning of the church year, fourth Sunday before Christmas, followed by second, third, and fourth Advent. The Advent season is a four-week period of penitence and preparation for Christmas. Custom: Advent wreaths made of fir tree branches are decorated with four candles representing the four Sundays of Advent. Each Sunday another candle is lit, until all four are burning. Also a symbol for light in the middle of winter. Another custom is to make or buy an Adventskalender with 24 doors, one for each day from December first until Christmas.
Dec 6 St. Nicholas Day ( St. Nikolaus)
Patron of children and sailors
Custom: St. Nikolaus , dressed in red or like a bishop comes into people's houses, states what a child has done – good and bad – throughout the year and hands out little presents. Sometimes he is accompanied by a rather wild creature in furs carrying a rod ( Knecht Rupprecht , also called Krampus in Bavaria). Usually, the Nikolaus is played by a family member or friend; he can also be hired!
Another custom is to put out a shoe/boot the night before. This is secretly filled with sweets and small presents by St. Nikolaus during the night. For naughty children, Krampus will leave a birch branch and lumps of coal.
Dec 21 Beginning of Winter ( Winteranfang )
Dec 24 Christmas Eve ( Heiligabend) shops close at noon
In Germany people start celebrating Christmas in the early evening of this day. They will attend religious services either in the late afternoon or at midnight ( Mitternachtsmesse ). In the evening, the Christkindl comes to the house and leaves presents for everybody. When the family comes back, the candles on the Christmas tree ( Weihnachtsbaum ) are lighted and the celebration starts.
Custom: Merry Christmas in German is “ Frohe Weihnachten, ” or “ Fröhliche Weihnachten,” or “Frohes Fest!”
Dec 25 Christmas Day ( 1. Weihnachtstag ) Public Holiday
Dec 26 Boxing Day ( 2. Weihnachtstag) Public Holiday
Dec 31 New Year's Eve ( Sylvester or Neujahrsnacht ) shops close at noon
The day when Pope Sylvester died. Custom: Dropping molten lead into cold water and reading a person's future from the shape of the results. Fireworks shortly after midnight. To wish a Happy New Year, people say “ Pros(i)t Neujahr! ” and “ Gutes Neues Jahr ” as they raise their glasses.