German holidays may be fixed or depend on the moon. They may be religious or national, but they are all grasped passionately as events to be enjoyed. Besides, some of them go so far that stores are closed, while others purely mean celebration.
German school holidays are so arranged as to avoid congestion in amusement parks and on the streets. Therefore all children do not get their holidays simultaneously. Same holidays may be celebrated on different dates in each state.
January 1st is the first holiday of the year when the whole nation along with the rest of the world celebrates the New Year.
January 6th is Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings. This is celebrated but a holiday only in the catholic regions of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony-Anhalt.
February is Carnival time, but this varies from year to year. One year it’s beginning another it’s middle or end of February. And some of them, most importantly Cologne, enjoy several holidays with stores closed such as on Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) and/or on Shrove Tuesday (Fastnacht or Karnevalsdienstag), while German Carnival definitely finds its end on the following Wednesday: the Ash Wednesday.
February 2nd is Maria Lichtmess or Candlemass, one of the German holidays celebrated in the Catholic regions while stores may remain open.
February 14th is Valentine’s Day, a celebrative holiday with stores opened.
Depending on the Catholic Calendar, Good Friday and Easter will be celebrated sometime in the month of March or April with stores closed on those two days.
April 1st is April fool’s Day — yet another one where stores remain open. (Don’t forget to fool someone you come across. :-)
April 30th is Walpurgis Night. This is mostly celebrated in Northern Germany where witches are supposed to gather on the occasion.
May 1st is Labor Day, a National Holiday where stores remain closed.
Depending on the Catholic Calendar, Ascension Day will be celebrated sometime in May.
Between end of May and end of June is Corpus Christi, celebrated in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, and Thuringia.
June 27th is St. Swithin’s Day. A swithin is a dormouse and so this may be considered similar to Groundhog Day. There is a belief that if it rains on this day, it will continue to do so for the next seven days.
August 15th is Assumption Day, a public holiday in Bavaria and Saarland.
October 3rd is Day of German Unity. This is a German National Holiday to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing unification which took place on October 3rd, 1990.
October 31st is Day of Reformation, celebrated only in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia.
November 1st is All Saint’s Day (Allerheiligen), celebrated and a public holiday in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland.
November 2nd is All Soul’s Day (Allerseelen), not a public holiday.
November 11th is Martinmas. This is celebrated with a procession with lit lanterns the night before. A roast goose is synonymous with this holiday.
December 6th is St. Nicholas Day. This feast is celebrated by both Catholics and Protestants, but with some differences. For the Catholics, St. Nicholas is a white bearded gent who goes door to door to enquire if the children have been good and reward them fittingly. The Christmas Man does the honors for the Protestant children. He is not to be confused with Santa Claus though.
December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
December 24th is Christmas Eve. Families gather around to celebrate and exchange gifts in front of a fully decorated Christmas tree. One the one hand it is a holiday, on the other hand not since stores are open until between noon and 2 PM.
December 25th is Christmas Day.
December 26th is celebrated as the Second Day of Christmas. (Yes, we in Germany have two National Holidays after Christmas Eve.)
December 31st is New Year’s Eve (German: Silvester) — a public National Holiday but with stores opened until between noon and 2 PM.
While talking about German holidays, what about schools? I’m glad you asked. :-)
School Holidays in German terms mean stores are open but schools are closed. This counts for any kind of school, by the way.
Now, schools have about six weeks of summer holidays. These do not fall on the same date for all and vary depending on each federal state. They may even fall on different dates each year.
The approximate times of summer vacations for a selection of our states would be as follows…
Baden-Württemberg: End of July to early September
Bavaria: Early August to mid September
Brandenburg: Mid July to end of August
Hesse: End of June to early August
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: End of July to end of August
Lower Saxony: Early July to end of August
North Rhine-Westphalia: End of June to early August
Rhineland-Palatinate: End of June of early August
Saarland: End of June to early August
Saxony-Anhalt: Early July to end of August
Thuringia: Early July to end of August
As far as Easter Holidays are concerned, these are usually two weeks long and this, you guessed it, around Eastern time.
Then there is a bit of Autumn Holidays which are one week long in October (sometimes November), and not in all states.
And finally, of course, Christmas Holidays which go about 2-3 weeks; starting a couple days before Christmas Eve and go until the beginning of January (in some states including the entire first week of January).
That’s about German holidays… be prepared!