German word of the day: Karfreitag

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Nele Schröder - [email protected]
German word of the day: Karfreitag
A man carrying a cross during a Karfreitag procession in Seitenroda, Thuringia last year. Photo: DPA

As it's the Easter weekend, let’s have a look at today’s word of the day, which describes a sad time when Christians look back and remember.


Against popular misunderstandings, this day is not called Karlfreitag – so let’s leave Karl out of this. Karfreitag in English means “Good Friday”, which seems contrary to its German meaning.

So let’s have a look. Karfreitag is the day where Christians remember the crucifixion of Christ. According to Duden, the Kar in Karfreitag comes from the Mid High German word chara, which means “wail,” “sorrow” or “lamentation.” Another, less common word for Karfreitag is stiller Freitag – “silent Friday.”

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Connected to this, the traditions on Karfreitag are the so-called Tanzverbot (“prohibition of dancing.”) That ban originally meant that public events, including sports or entertainment, weren’t allowed to take place on this day - even long before the coronavirus crisis.

The shops are closed, as well as theme parks (like the famous “Frühlingsdom” in Hamburg). Other bans, like showing films that weren’t approved by the education minister, vary according to the state.

However, this Tanzverbot is being highly critiqued for violating the general freedom of assembly. Especially people with no religion or a different religion than Christianity often don’t see why this day should be protected. Because of that, the Tanzverbot doesn’t apply to everyone anymore, usually just to religious people.

So weather you mourn on Karfreitag or not, at least now you know where the word is coming from – and why Karl isn’t a part of it.


SEE ALSO: Frankfurt party organizers face hefty fine for flouting Easter dancing ban


Ist Karfreitag für dich ein stiller Tag?

Is the Good Friday a silent day for you?

Das Tanzverbot am Karfreitag halte ich für unnötig.

I think the prohibition of dancing on the Good Friday is unnecessary.

Am Karfreitag wurde Jesus gekreuzigt.

Jesus was crucified on Good Friday.


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Anonymous 2020/04/09 20:10
"Whether", not "weather"

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