Saxony public holiday: What’s the history behind ‘Buß und Bettag’?

November 17th marks more than a day off work in Saxony (and off school for those in Bavaria). We look at why it’s celebrated.

People of the Protestant church celebrating a memorial church service for the
People of the Protestant church celebrating a memorial church service for the "Buß- und Bettag" in Stuttgart. Photo: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb | Bernd_Weißbrod

When does it take place?

The “Buß- and Bettag” (Day of Prayer and Repentance) always takes place on the Wednesday before the Ewigkeitssonntag (Eternity Sunday), also called Totensonntag. That’s the Sunday when the dead are commemorated – and it’s a week before Advent starts (on November 28th this year).

In 2021, the Day of Prayer and Repentance falls on Wednesday November 17th.


Let’s take a closer look at the German. “Buße” can wrongly be associated with penalties such as “Bußgeld” (penalty fee) but it actually refers to its religious sense, meaning the reorientation of a human.

This means that a person must show remorse for their sins and reflect on their faith in God (Theism).

READ ALSO: How you can make the most of Germany’s 2022 public holidays


“Buß- und Bettag” is a Protestant memorial day.

It dates back to the Middle Ages, where this day was summoned upon when the country was in a state of crisis or adversity.

Numerous protestants partaking in the church service for the “Buß- und Bettag” in Munich. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Birgit Haubner


Its purpose is to call on people to pray and consider their faith.

There are three parts to the practicing of this holiday.

Firstly, the church intercedes sinners who feel guilty before God. Secondly, this holiday tests one’s consciousness before God. And lastly, the church should show its guardian function and devotion towards its people.

Why is it not celebrated Germany-wide?

“Buß- und Bettag” used to be celebrated across the German-speaking territories and beyond. In 1878, for example, it was celebrated in 28 countries.

During that time, the “Buß- und Bettag” had not yet received a fixed date but was selected individually by the country. It was only in the “Reichs Gesetz” in 1934 that it was deemed a public holiday in the German Reich.

However, it was later abolished by most countries and eventually only Saxony kept this holiday.

How is it celebrated nowadays?

In most German states, holiday laws permit that religious employees can take this day off if they request it.

READ ALSO: These are the ‘special days’ when you can get paid time off in Germany

These employees luckily do not have to take this holiday as part of their numbered vacation days, but they have to forgo their payment for this day.

In Bavaria “Buß- und Bettag” is a public holiday solely for school students, whereas in Saxony, it is a public holiday for everyone.

We updated this story in 2021. 

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.