The regional differences with regard to public holidays in Germany are partly due to the varying influence of the two major Christian denominations in different parts of the country. While Southern Germany is mostly Catholic, the north is mainly Protestant, and this has had a strong impact on the regional traditions of public holidays in Germany. In Bavaria, for instance, Catholicism, with its many religious festivals, has always been of great importance. Today, Bavaria is also the federal state with the highest number of public holidays in Germany.
Secular regional cultures are another major influence on lots of public holidays in Germany. For example, some holiday celebrations in the Ruhr-Rhine-Area differ vastly from those in Bavaria, whereas the same holiday might hardly be celebrated at all in Berlin. Apart from nationwide public holidays in Germany, many festivals are unique to different German regions, too.
During summer in particular, plenty of local festivals take place throughout the country – some on Germany’s public holidays, some during tourist peak season. So, in addition to traditional public holidays like Christmas, in Germany a huge variety of events is available to everyone interested in German culture or leisure: Ranging from theater or music festivals (e.g. opera in Bayreuth) to sports events like the Ironman European Championship, there’s something for every taste.
There are only very few political public holidays in Germany. When the day of Germany’s reunification was announced as a public holiday in 1990, it replaced June 17th (the anniversary of a 1953 political uprising against the socialist government of the Democratic Republic of Germany) as the only national holiday. Today, politicians and the German people annually celebrate October 3rd at the Brandenburg Gate, where the Berlin Wall used to separate East and West Berlin. Speeches, free concerts and fireworks attract countless visitors every year.
Nowadays, the celebrations on May 1st are a mixture of many traditions. One is the so-called Walpurgis Night, held on the highest peak of the Harz Mountain Range in the night from 30th April to 1st May. As a superstitious protection from witches and evil spirits, the participants light a bonfire and play the drums. Walpurgis Night has become increasingly popular in recent years. At many other places, there are religious processions of a distinctly Christian nature, e.g. Catholic festivals in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In other towns, you can see colorful maypoles with wreaths of twigs and flowers at village fairs.
However, as in many other countries around the globe, May 1st is a public holiday used to emphasize the importance of organized labor, welfare and social democracy. In Germany’s major cities, left-wing labor unions hold annual rallies with thousands of attendants.
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