Yes, it looks like you’ve made the rookie mistake of not checking what days are public holidays in Germany (Feiertage). On public holidays here, most supermarkets and stores are closed, with the exception of petrol stations and some smaller shops. As with most things, public holidays also vary from state to state. If you’re not really that keen on working, you should probably consider moving to Bavaria, where there are 13 public holidays a year. The number of public holidays in other states varies from 10 to 12. For now, let’s focus on public holidays in Berlin.
When you look out your window on New Year’s Day, you could be forgiven for thinking that a war must have taken place the previous night. That’s because the usually reserved Germans choose New Year’s Eve (Silvester) to make up for the other 364 days and go absolutely nuts with fireworks. You’ll likely not get a wink of sleep and your poor, traumatised cat or dog will be cowering under the bed for days. Maybe you will be too. It’s usually a bit of a shock to the system for most foreigners to see the Germans running around with a skinful of booze and enough fireworks to blow up half a block. This is one of the few times the Germans are not sensible people.
Another New Year’s Eve tradition is to watch the “classic” Dinner for One. The Germans find it absolutely hilarious – or at least that’s what they tell us foreigners, who eagerly rush to watch it in a bid to be more German, experience a growing sense of confusion, and finally a feeling of despair that they’ve just wasted approximately 11 minutes of their lives.
As of 2019, Berliners get a day off on International Women’s Day after local parliament declared it to be a public holiday. So far, Berlin is the only state to do this and it’s surely a step in the right direction towards equality for women in the capital. Or just an extra day off – either way, we’ll take it.
Get ready to hang up your dancing shoes as busting a move in Berlin on Good Friday is illegal. Yes, you did read that correctly. However, Berlin isn’t as strict as some other states – for example, all music in bars is banned in Bavaria and, in Frankfurt in Hesse, party organisers could face a fine of up to €1,000 for ignoring the ban. Berlin isn’t quite that extreme but dancing between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. is forbidden out of respect for the Christian faith. Whether or not this is actually enforced is a bit hazy – much like everything else in Berlin.
Again, most stores are shut so make sure you stock up on the essentials on Easter Saturday. The good news is that a lot of museums are open so you can finally get around to being as cultural as you tell people you are.
May Day kicks off the summer season in the city with a bang. The festival attracts every crusty in Berlin as the city erupts in leftist demonstrations, street parties and open-air raves, with the district of Kreuzberg being the epicentre of proceedings. If you’ve been itching to get into a fight with the police, this is the day for you. Otherwise, it’s probably a good idea to avoid the area around Kottbusser Tor on this day.
More good news for work-shy Berliners – this year, Berlin's parliament has decided to establish May 8th, 2020 (Victory Day in Europe) as a one-off public holiday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Hitler’s Germany and the end of World War II in Europe.
Probably the best-named public holiday in Germany – Himmelfahrt. Say it three times and try not to giggle – we dare you. Ascension Day is a public holiday in Germany to mark Jesus’ ascension to heaven. It takes place on the 40th day of Easter (or 39 days after Easter Sunday). The more fun bit is that it’s also known as Father’s Day or Men’s Day in some parts of Germany.
If Father’s Day in your home country is about gifting a pair of socks and getting on with your life, you might be a bit surprised at how German men approach it - usually with a heck of a lot of day-drinking and debauchery. The German way is more about celebrating manhood and going out into nature in “gentlemen’s parties” (Herrenpartien) while pulling along decorated Bollerwagen (handcarts) filled to the brim with food and booze. Women can look forward to a day of peace and quiet, followed by a night of raucous, booze-induced snoring.
Pfingsten is a Christian holiday, which is celebrated on the 50th day of the Osterfestkreis (Easter season), that is, the 49th day after Easter Sunday. Pentecost is also called “the birthday of the Church”. Nothing too exciting to say here but make the most of this public holiday as the next one isn’t until October.
The Day of German Unity is Germany's national holiday. It commemorates German reunification in 1990 and is celebrated with a three-day festival around Platz der Republik, Straße des 17. Juni and the Brandenburg Gate. In that area, various stages host live bands and stands sell food, drinks and sweets. Another excellent excuse for some day-drinking.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (Apart from summer.) The whole city smells of ginger, twinkles with fairy lights, and walking around with a Glühwein in your hand is perfectly acceptable at all times of the day or night. In the German Christmas season, the most important day is Christmas Eve (December 24th) and stores shut down at some point in the afternoon, so be sure to check seasonal opening hours (usually posted on the front door of shops) before everything closes and you’re left turkey- or goose-less. Everything remains closed on the 25th which is a quiet day for family, and recovering from the turkey or goose coma.
The Germans like to keep things simple when it comes to Christmas – no fancy Eves, Boxing or St. Stephen’s Day for them. No, it’s First Christmas Day and Second Christmas Day – ganz einfach. Everything is still closed. Keep eating. You have just under a week until the city explodes with New Year’s Eve fireworks.
For a state-by-state guide to public holidays in Germany, please click here.
And finally, we thought we’d finish up on an insurance-y note since, you know, we’re an insurance company. Although not an official holiday obviously, June 28th is Insurance Awareness Day and, amazingly, it wasn’t invented by the Germans but probably by an American insurance company for advertising reasons. This is the day you should check and ideally improve your insurance status. But hey, you can do that any day and today is as good a day as any, right?
Heard horror stories about people being ripped off by locksmiths? Unfortunately, it does happen as Linda O’Grady, co-author of “From the Bürgeramt to the Bedroom” found out. So that the same thing doesn’t happen to you, read our 4-point guide to finding a reputable locksmith at the end of the article.
The good news is that the number of burglaries in Germany is decreasing - and around half of all burglary attempts fail. Unfortunately, that means around 50% succeed and you could be in the unlucky half. Read on to find out what you can do to protect yourself and your belongings from burglars.
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