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GERMANY EXPLAINED

Fronleichnam: What you should know about Germany’s regional public holiday

The day is celebrated as a public holiday in six German states (and two other regions) on Thursday. We explain its origins and how it's observed.

A music band marches in the Corpus Christi procession in Seehausen am Staffelsee, Bavaria, in 2018.
A music band marches in the Corpus Christi procession in Seehausen am Staffelsee, Bavaria, in 2018. Photo: picture alliance / Matthias Balk/dpa | Matthias Balk

Thursday June 16th 2022 marks the Catholic holiday of Fronleichnam, known sometimes as Prangertag or Blutstag. In English the simplified Latin term, Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body of Christ, is used. 

Where and how is it celebrated in Germany?

The day is celebrated internationally on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. 

It’s mostly celebrated where it is also a public holiday: the predominantly Catholic, southwestern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, as well as the western states of Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

Basically you’ll have the day off work if you live in a part of Germany where Martin Luther didn’t have an upper hand. 

READ ALSO: How you can make the most of German public holidays in 2022

However, the holiday is also celebrated in other parts of Germany, such as in Sorbian communities. The West Slavic ethnic group lives in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony, and the majority are Roman Catholics. 

Celebrations of the holiday include a Holy Mass with the Eucharist, followed by a Fronleichnamsprozession (a Fronleichnam procession) led by a local Priest, during which praying and singing takes place.

Archive photos shows the inside of a Catholic Church during a Fronleichnam Mass in Crostwitz, Saxony. The holiday is also celebrated in 26 communities in the eastern State, including in this Sorbian community. Photo: DPA

This and the following barbecue is considered the Fronleichnamsfest (which is pronounced like froon-laich-naams-fest) and it greatly varies in size from town to town. 

In Fritzlar in northern Hesse, the celebrations usually start on Wednesday night with the so-called Katzenkoppschießen. During this ceremony, the eight bells of the town cathedral are rung and a canon is fired, a ritual that is repeated three times.

In Cologne, there is usually a procession involving over 100 ships, while in Bamberg 18 men carry a huge cross through the town.

The parades are often highly decorated with ornate floral images with motives from the Bible. People who celebrate it usually decorate their houses with similarly elaborate designs and symbols, such as a Biblical fish.

What are its origins?

The word itself comes from the Middle-High German term vrône lîcham, meaning “Body of the Lord”. The term comes from the words vrôn (meaning “what concerns the Lord”) and lîcham (meaning body).

The variations of the word Fronleichnam also have their origins. Blutstag is comprised of the words “Blut” (meaning blood) and “Tag” (meaning day), so it literally means “Blood Day”. This makes sense as it celebrates the blood of Christ.

Prangertag, on the other hand, is a little more strange.

Pranger” means pillory, which is a wooden framework with holes for the head and hands, and was used to imprison offenders during Medieval times. 

However, “Pranger” in this case supposedly does not mean an ancient torture device. It is said to reference the thought that “die Natur prangert in ihrem herrlichsten Kleid” (nature denounces in her beautiful dress).

The only sense that can be made of this is that nature can be quite beautiful around this time of year.

A Fronleichnamsprozession led by a priest in Crostwitz, Saxony. Photo: DPA

But what actually is Fronleichnam?

Fronleichnam is the liturgical solemnity celebrating the presence of the blood and body of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.

So essentially it celebrates Jesus and his role in elements of the commemoration of the Last Supper. 

Uses of Fronleichnam:

Na? Gehst du gleich zum Fronleichnamsfest?

Well? Are you going to the Corpus Christi celebration?

Pfarrer Mustermann mag Fronleichnamsprozession besonders viel, hab’ ich gehört.

Father Mustermann likes Corpus Christi in particular, I have heard.

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

How Germany’s population is changing during the pandemic

Immigration is causing the population in Germany to grow slightly again after stagnating during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the latest report on population changes.

How Germany's population is changing during the pandemic

How is immigration influencing population changes in the pandemic?

At the end of 2021, around 83.2 million people lived in Germany – that’s 0.1 percent or 82,000 more than at the end of the previous year.

The development was mainly due to an increase in net immigration, said the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). Around 317,000 more people came to Germany than left in 2021.

Initially, the statistics office predicted that the German population would see a stronger stagnation in 2021.

It comes after net immigration decreased significantly in the first pandemic year. Since reunification, the number of people living in Germany has mostly grown. However, in 2020, Germany’s population stayed the same for the first time since 2011.

Destatis said that the the number of people immigrating from abroad to Germany was down by 24 percent in 2020, while the number of people emigrating from Germany was down 22 percent year on year.

They said changes in migration patterns were particularly significant among young adults aged 18 to 22.

It means that the number of immigrants who came to Germany in 2021 was almost at pre-pandemic levels. At the end of 2019, net immigration stood at 327,000 people.

At the same time, the excess of deaths over births in Germany continued to rise in 2021 to 228,000 (2020: 212,000).

Germany’s population figures are calculated using data on registered births and deaths as well as from the arrivals and departures reported to the statistical offices by authorities. 

Experts say the stats can change as more information becomes available. 

What else do we know about the German population?

At the end of 2021, 72.3 million people with German citizenship, and 10.9 million people with foreign citizenship lived in Germany.

The proportion of foreigners in the total population increased from 12.7 to 13.1 percent compared to the previous year.

As in the previous year, the number of older people continued to rise in 2021. The group aged 60 and over saw an increase of 341,000 people to 24.4 million (+1.4  percent). And the very elderly aged 80 and over rose sharply to 6.1 million (+175 000 or +3.0  percent) people.

The number of senior citizens between 60 and 79-years-old was 18.3 million at the end of 2021 (+166 000 persons or +0.9  percent). At the same time, the number of people aged 20 to 59 fell to 43.4 million (-358 000 persons or -0.8  percent). In contrast, the number of children and young people under 20 increased by 99,000 or 0.6  percent to 15.4 million.

The average age of the German population increased slightly by 0.1 years to 44.7 years.

What’s the situation in different parts of Germany?

Population development in 2021 varied from region to region: in absolute terms, the population in Bavaria increased the most with an increase of about 37,000 people, followed by Lower Saxony (+24,000) and Baden-Württemberg (+22,000).

In percentage terms, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin (+0.4  percent each) had the highest increases in population. There were also population losses in Bremen, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia.

The below table shows the population changes in German regions.

Screenshot: Federal Statistical Office

Chart: Federal Statistical Office

Overall, the western German states (excluding Berlin) recorded a population increase of 98,000 people to 67.1 million. Although this increase was significantly higher than in 2020 (+24,000), it was still below the level before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2019 (+144,000).

In eastern Germany (excluding Berlin), the population continued to decline (by 30,000), and stood at 12.5 million at the end of the year.

Vocabulary

Immigration – (die) Zuwanderung

Population – (die) Bevölkerung

Increased/grown – gewachsen

Previous year – (der) Vorjahr

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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