At 8am on a Sunday, walking my dog here can feel like a scene from a zombie apocalypse film. Not that the maybe two people I will pass look ghastly and likely to want to eat my brains, just that there is an eerie quiet that descends on the village on Sunday. As everyone reading this is I’m sure aware on Sunday Germany is closed. Okay not everywhere is closed, but the usual shops, banks and administrative offices will have a Ruhetag (rest day) on Sunday, not merely to respect the Christian Sabbath but also to give workers a guaranteed day to relax at home with their families. Until the church bells start pealing at 9am that is, to awaken the majority Christian population of Germany, for a more in-depth look at religion and its history in Germany check out this guide.
The only other time that Germany is this quiet is on a gesetzlicher Feiertag (public holiday). Just how many of these Feiertag you get depends where in Germany you are located. States that are predominantly Catholic, like Bavaria, will have more public holidays than others. Some are even on a town by town basis, so whilst your child’s kindergarten next door may be closed, your office two towns over will be open for business as usual. Sarah’s personal experience of religious holidays is worth a read on this subject.
On a public holiday, like a Sunday, the emphasis is on spending time with family and friends as well as getting out in the fresh air. Also like a Sunday these days (and nights) are considered quiet time. In the UK all bank holidays (public holidays) happen on Mondays, guaranteeing a three-day weekend that is generally used for socializing or DIY. Do not attempt (noisy) DIY in Germany on a Sunday or a public holiday. There are laws which regulate noise and anything remotely louder than voices, like a lawn mower, vacuum or washing machine can get you in trouble, particularly if you have thin walls or neighbours with hearing akin to that of a hawk.
One of the differences English people notice when they arrive in Germany is that public holidays can happen on any day of the week. We are used to the regimented Monday only public holiday, besides Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. An advantage to the English system is that there is the same number of holidays each year, which can also be said for Germany too, but should a public holiday in Germany land on a Sunday, well, that’s just tough luck. That Sunday even less will be open than usual.
A big advantage though comes in the form of the Brückentage (Bridge days). Which enable people to get more bang for their holiday allowance buck. When a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, the Monday and Friday of that week are known as bridge days allowing for a four day break for the price of one day of holiday allowance. Holiday planning is a serious business in Germany, whilst some companies will shut down and employees will have to use their personal holiday allowance on the bridge day, in the ones that don’t these bridge days can be hotly contested, be sure to book early or you may be disappointed. To check when your state holidays are and how to maximise them by using the bridge days in Germany and Austria calendar websites like this have done the hard work for you. If you don’t manage to secure a bridge day the upside is that your workplace is likely to be extremely quiet that day enabling you to get as much (or as maybe little) done as you please.
In 2017 Germany is enjoying a special one off country wide public holiday for the Protestant Reformationstag (Reformation Day) on the 31st October (yes that’s Halloween) in celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saints Church, Wittenberg. The year of Luther is being celebrated up and down the country as well as abroad; you can see how and join in here. For more of the history of the reformation and on Martin Luther himself you’ll find him here under notable people.
We are lucky here in Baden-Württemberg to celebrate Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day) with a public holiday, along with Bavaria, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland, November 1st is the last holiday until Christmas Day. You might have worked out that this means Tuesday and Wednesday are public holidays this year. For one day of your holiday allowance you get a full five days off work. For three days of holiday allowance you get seven full days off work. That is if you got in there early and booked before everyone else did. Everyone around here has taken the opportunity to fly off for some sun, get blown away at the seaside or like me is planning a cozy staycation punctuated only by dog walks and hot chocolate.
Happy (public) holidays!