What you should know about Frauentag in Germany

March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a global event calling for equality and celebrating achievements of women. In Germany, Frauentag has a long history dating back more than 100 years.

Women take part in a demo calling for equal rights on International Women's Day 2021 at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
Women take part in a demo calling for equal rights on International Women's Day 2021 at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

What are the roots of Frauentag in Germany?

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

More than one million women took to the streets on this first International Women’s Day demanding active and passive suffrage for women. And, in 1975, the United Nations made March 8th the “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace”. 

In 2019, the day became an official public holiday in the German city state of Berlin.

Clara Zetkin during the International Congress on Legal Health and Safety at Work in Zurich in 1897. Photo: picture alliance/dpa

What’s the connection to East Germany?

The German Democratic Republic (GDR – former East Germany) was often dubbed a Frauenland (women’s country), a country of emancipation and equality for women – which was an official state goal in the GDR decades before there were comparable rules in the Federal Republic. 

As early as 1949, women were encouraged to participate in the workforce, something that was urgently needed for the national economy. Women’s Day was used to propagate this participation, a designated day consisting of speeches and an annual Grußwort (greeting) to GDR women from the ruling party’s Central Committee – however it remained a normal working day.

Women in the GDR would also be given poems and bouquets of flowers by children and partners alike. Specifically, it was tradition to receive red carnations.

Historically, gender equality has been a particular sticking point in the former West Germany. For instance, women still needed permission from their husbands to work until 1977.

In the months leading up to reunification, just over half of women in West Germany were employed in the workforce, compared with 91 percent of women in communist East Germany.

Some feminists based in western Germany took a critical view of Women’s Day in the Eastern Bloc states: “In the 1970s we did not know March 8th,” wrote editor of German feminist magazine Emma, Alice Schwarzer, in 2010 about what she called “Socialist Mother’s Day”.

READ ALSO: Women in Germany earn nearly a fifth less than men

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

While women in the East were more financially independent than those in the West – being encouraged to work from the beginning and able to open their own bank accounts without seeking permission from their husbands, women in the GDR were largely underrepresented in state positions, with only two women making it to ministerial posts.

The typical nuclear family with women taking care of the household and children also largely remained intact, despite their increased employment.

Nevertheless, many argue that Women’s Day enabled women in the GDR to feel appreciated, and encouraged many to push for true and realised equality.

How to celebrate Women’s Day 2022 in Germany

The Berlin official website lists a number of events held this year, including speeches by politicians and activists at the Clara Zetkin Monument in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, film, music and dance performances at FORUM Factory in Kreuzberg and “Purple Ride”, a bike demonstration from Mariannenplatz to Leopoldplatz.

Campaigners hold a sign that says 'every day is women's day' at a Frauentag demo in Berlin in 2021.

Campaigners hold a sign that says ‘every day is women’s day’ at a Frauentag demo in Berlin in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

For the full list of events check out the link here.

There will also be events around Germany, and women are often handed out flowers on the street (or you can gift the women in your life flowers). 

Is Frauentag a day off for all German residents?

No. International Women’s Day became a holiday in Berlin because the German capital was the Bundesland with least amount of Feiertage.

Politicians in Berlin had been pushing for a new public holiday, and voted for it to be on Frauentag in 2019. 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Berlin’s newest public holiday

Berlin now has 10 public holidays – but it’s still far behind Bavaria which has 13 public holidays. 

Meanwhile, the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has voted for March 8th become a day off for Women’s Day. It will likely become a public holiday from 2023 onwards, with other states considering the move.

Regardless of where you live, celebrate female empowerment and the women around you with Germany’s 2022 Women’s Day slogan: “Der Wandel ist weiblich” (change is female).

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

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REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

Summer is the best time of year to get out and about and experience some of the incredible cultural events that Germany has to offer. From electronic music to scrumptious food fests, here's what's on this July.

REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

Tollwood Summer Festival, Munich Olympiapark (June 15th – July 17th) 

Tollwood Olympiapark

A sign for the Tollwood Festival at Munich Olympiapark. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

The Bavarian capital of Munich is gorgeous in the summer months, and if you fancy a trip, there are few better times to go than during the city’s iconic summer festival.

For 32 days each year, Olympiapark in the north of the city is transformed in a bustling festival site with markets, street food, beer gardens, music and cultural performances. It’s free to get onto the site just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere with a refreshing beer, though some of the performances are ticketed.

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

This year, visitors to the Olympiapark in the first few weeks of July can see adventurous walks and tricks from some of the world’s best tightrope walkers on a slackline installed 15 metres above the ground. The dreamy art installation, “Museum of the Moon”, treats visitors to a dazzling projection of the moon at eye-level in the park accompanied by specially composed soundscapes. 

The festivities are set to go out with a bang on July 16th during the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party with music, world cuisine, dancing and fireworks.

KeNaKo Afrika Festival 2022, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1st – 11th July)

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019. Photo: Kenako Festival

Not to be outdone by the Bavarians, Berlin will be bringing the warmth and vibrancy of Africa to Alexanderplatz at the start of July with the KENAKO Africa Festival.

There’ll be a sprawling African market complete with arts, crafts and clothing from around the continent, as well as lively podium discussions, concerts and workshops. Arrive early to browse the stalls before tucking into some traditional cuisine and enjoying the music. 

The festival is partly about education and discussion, so if you feel like you don’t know enough about the countries of this fascinating and diverse continent, you’re in the right place. Entry to the festival ground is free of charge. 

Hong Kong Street Food Festival, Berlin Gleisdreieck (July 7th)

Dim sum

Traditional Chinese dim sum. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa-tmn | Elke_Wentker

If you’re a fan of Hong Kong street food (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) you won’t want to miss this pop-up festival at Jules B-Part in Berlin’s Gleisdreieck park. Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Bureau, you’ll be taken on a whirlwind tasting tour of the region’s vibrant culinary culture, from mouthwatering dim sum to refreshing desserts like Mango Pomelo Sago and deliciously sweet Milk Tea.

You’ll need to be on your toes to catch this one, since the food vendors are only setting up shop in the park from 11am to 4pm. Food and refreshments are all completely free – but it’s first come first served, so get their early if you can. 

Podfest Berlin, Berlin House of Music (July 16th & 17th) 

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021.

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021. Photo source: Podfest Berlin

Berlin’s podcasting community has grown rapidly in recent years, with new success stories emerging all the time. If you fancy mingling with this talented crowd – and even catching some of them in-action – there’s no better place to do it than at Podfest 2022.

For one weekend action-packed weekend, the House of Music will be turned into one big podcast recording studio where visitors can attend live recordings, seminars, panels and enjoy general festival fun and networking.

To reflect Berlin’s general international vibe, podcasts will be recorded in numerous different languages, including English, Spanish and German – so there really is something for everyone.

Early bird passes are on sale now and cost €34 for two days.

Düsseldorf “Kirmes”: The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine, Oberkassel Rheinwiesen (July 15th-24th)

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Martin Gerten

More than just a funfair, Düsseldorf Kirmes is pretty much a world of its own, complete with beer tents, food and exhilarating rides of all shapes and sizes.

This ginormous fairground is the perfect place to release your inner child this summer and experience a bit of Rheinische Frohheit – the joyful nature that people from this area are known for.

Enjoy soaring above the city on a rollercoaster in the scenic Rheinwiesen, sip on a local beer or two and make sure you block out some time to see a bit of Düsseldorf – the North Rhine-Westphalian city with a “dorf” (village) feel to it. 

One thing you may not be aware of is that Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese community in Germany, so once you’re tired of stodgy fairground food, we recommend grabbing some sushi at some of the city’s authentic Japanese restaurants. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Duckstein Beer and Culture Festival, Hamburg HafenCity (15th-24th July)

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg.

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg. Photo: Thomas Panzau

Up north in Germany’s famous port city, Hamburg’s harbour is set to become a hub of music, art, culture and food throughout mid-July. Against the stunning backdrop of the the International Maritime Museum, musicians from all around the world will perform in the “unplugged” concert series. To add to the intimate feel of the concerts, many of the sets will be acoustic and the artists will perform at eye-level with the audience. 

If it’s markets you’re after, you also won’t leave disappointed: the city’s best designers, artists and craftspeople are set to descend on Osakaallee and transform it into the aptly named Design Boulevard for the 10 days during the festival. There are also set to be a range of pop-up international food hubs on Dar-es-Salaam-Platz, Störtebeker Ufer and Busanbrücke, where visitors can sample exotic dishes from far and wide, washed down with a Duckstein beer.  

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Parookaville Electronic Music Festival, Weeze Airport, North-Rhine Westphalia (July 22-24th)

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marius Becker

Electronic music fans won’t want to miss this one: the three-day Parookaville festival is back, returning to its iconic location at Weeze Airport just a stone’s throw from the Dutch border.

Since its inception in 2015, Parokaville has become something of an institution in Germany’s electro scene – and many people say it’s worth going just for the spectacle alone. The organisers pull out all the stops to make visitors to Parokaville feel like they really have entered a genuine “city of dreams”, complete with a massive steampunk zeppelin adorning the main stage and a seven-meter high “monument” to Bill Parooka, the legendary founder and mayor of Parookaville. You’ll also find a town hall, post office, a power plant, the town “jail” (a tattoo parlour) and even a Parooka church where people can tie the knot. 

This year, some of the headliners include Fisher, Afrojack and Yellow Claw. 

Maschsee Lake Festival, Hannover (July 27th – August 14th)

Maschsee festival

Visitors enjoy a beer on the east bank of the Maschsee Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Hannover Marketing und Tourismus GmbH (HMTG) | Kevin Münkel

Long lazy days and balmy evenings spent at the lake are an essential part of German summer, and there’s no bigger celebration of this cultural tradition than the Maschsee lake festival in Hannover. 

Every year, two million visitors descend on Hannover’s Maschsee over three weeks in summer to enjoy the best of world cuisine and art in stalls and stages peppered along the waterfront. There are also boat rides, activities for kids and sports on the lake itself – and don’t forget to pack swimming stuff for a refreshing dip!  

READ ALSO: Five German foods to try this summer

If you don’t live close enough to Hannover for a daytrip, the organisers offer experience packages complete with a 3* or 4* overnight stay, a cocktail at one of the festival bars, a boat trip around the lake and entry to the festival. It sounds like the perfect way to while away a few days this summer. 

Bayreuth Wagner Festival, Bayreuth, Bavaria (July 25th – September 1st) 

Bayreuth festival performance 2021

A performance of ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremburg’ at the Bayreuth Festival in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Festspiele Bayreuth | Enrico Nawrath

For classical music lovers, the Bayreuth festival should need no introduction. It’s an epic weeks-long event dedicated to a single composer – Richard Wagner – and has been held in the same venue that Wagner himself commissioned for almost 150 years.

Traditions and history are a major part of the festival, with the same ten Wagnerian masterpieces being played each year, including The Flying Dutchman and all four parts of the Ring Cycle. Attendees will also see the intermission musicians play their specially composed fanfare – a tradition that dates back to the first performances at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre in 1976. 

You can also learn more about each of the performances through a series of introductory talks or (if you’re a skilled musician) take part in one of the masterclasses in singing and composing.