What you should know about 'Frauentag', Berlin's newest public holiday

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
What you should know about 'Frauentag', Berlin's newest public holiday
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, Berlin's parliament voted on March 8th as an official day off from work to honour International Women’s Day.


Berliners can most likely look forward to 10 public holidays in 2019. The German capital, which up to this point has been the Bundesland with the least amount of public holidays, has become the first federal state to vote on Frauentag (women's day) as a public holiday.

The Social Democrats (SPD), Die Linke (the Left Party) and the Greens overwhelming voted for the holiday on Monday, which was officially voted on Thursday in Berlin's parliament.

SEE ALSO: How you can make the most of Germany's public holidays in 2019

In the past weeks and months, politicians in Berlin have pushed for another public holiday, with various proposals from the parties.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) preferred that other, more religiously-themed days would be chosen. The Free Democrats (FDP) were against the move, arguing that the extra day off would cause damage to the economy and tax revenues.

Germans, both women and men, hailed the decision on Twitter. Others jokingly asked if men would then be required to work on the day and if there should also be a Männertag in the name of equality.

Berlin is already planning for a day off

If the proposal passes the parliament, then March 8th will be permanently installed in Berlin as a holiday from this year.

In 2020, however, March 8th will fall on a Sunday. It should be noted that in Germany, holidays that fall on a weekend are, usually not observed on a weekday instead.

However Berlin residents can still count on their 10 public holidays: Only in 2020, May 8th will also be a holiday, used to commemorate the end of World War II and the liberation from National Socialism.

Berlin’s official website is already preparing residents for the day off on March 9th this year by publicizing a list of events and theatre shows they can attend on their free Friday.

Throughout Germany, the holiday is also used by women to fight for feminist causes, such as better equality in the workplace.

Women and Green Party voters in Stuttgart demonstrate in 2018 for greater equality of women in politics. Photo: DPA

Berlin has some of the fewest holidays among federal states. Currently there are 9 which some say pales in comparison to the 13 in Bavaria.

As a result, there’s been a long-standing desire in the capital declare another day a holiday.

Yet there has also been a long-lasting debate as to what exactly that day should be. Other days discussed were Reformation Day on October 31st, the former Day of German Unity in the Federal Republic on June 17th, and the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

Reformation Day: the popular pick of employers and the church

Employers' associations and the Protestant Church had spoken out in favour of Berlin taking a holiday on Reformation Day, just as its neighbouring state of Brandenburg does.

Businesses have said that a joint holiday would make the most sense for commuters, many who live in Brandenburg but travel into Berlin.

A uniform regulation in the metropolitan region would benefit six million people, they argued. Yet the Berlin Senate apparently did not find these arguments convincing enough.

World Women's Day was first celebrated on March 19th, 1911 in Germany and neighboring countries at the suggestion of German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin, a key figure in Germany's women's right movement.

Since 1921 it has been celebrated annually on March 8th, with women taking to the streets in Germany and around the world.

Clara Zetkin, taken during the International Congress on Legal Health and Safety at Work in Zurich in 1897. Photo: DPA

In Germany, a holiday with GDR roots

Frauentag was especially recognized in former east Germany, where it was a tradition for women to receive red carnations every March 8th.

In the work place a member of the company's management, usually male, would honour top female colleagues.

The feminists of western Germany, on the other hand, took a critical view of Women's Day in the Eastern Bloc states: "In the 1970s we did not know March 8th," wrote "Emma" editor Alice Schwarzer in 2010 about what she called "Socialist Mother's Day".

She pointed out that the holiday was only celebrated superficially, rather than used as an occasion to enact true social change.

Women in the GDR had been fobbed off with cakes, carnations and "cheap perfume", she said, while men were promoted to the executive floors.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also