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Which public holidays are coming up in Germany?

Now that summer is over, many people will be wondering when the next holidays are coming up. Depending on where you live in Germany, you might be pleasantly surprised.

An angel figure in the West Cemetery in Munich on November 1st, 2021.
An angel figure in the West Cemetery in Munich on November 1st, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

World Children’s Day – Tuesday, September 20th

Where: Thuringia

If you live in the state of Thuringia, you can look forward to a day off work or school next week.  

Established by the United Nations in 1954, World Children’s Day honours children as the future of society and is intended to draw attention to the rights of children, focus on their individual needs and make political demands on their behalf.

Children hold up banners in front of the Reichstag with their demands on World Children’s Day, 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

The state of Thuringia decided to make Weltkindertag a public holiday in 2019, hoping that the day off would draw attention to the needs of children and families, and encourage parents to spend more time with their children.

As the holiday falls on a Tuesday, if you’re living in Thuringia, why not take a Brückentag (bridge day) and enjoy a four-day weekend?

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Brückentag

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

Family time – (die) Familienzeit

Child rights – (die) Kinderrechte

German Unity Day – Monday, October 3rd

Where: Nationwide

The next nationwide public holiday to put in your calendar is October 3rd, when the country celebrates German Unity Day.

Tag der deutschen Einheit – German Unity Day – celebrates the date that the GDR officially ceased to exist as a sovereign state and rejoined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990. Since then, Germany has been reunited as the Bundesrepublik and the date is celebrated every year with a holiday in every federal state.

This year it lands on a Monday meaning that many people will get a long weekend. 

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

Reunification – (die) Wiedervereinigung

Fall of the Berlin Wall – (der) Mauerfall

All Saints’ Day – Tuesday, November 1st

Where: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland

The history of All Saints’ Day goes right back to the birth of Christianity, as it was originally a day of commemoration for martyrs who were killed because of their Christian faith when it was introduced in the 4th century.

Nowadays, in Germany, the feast day is celebrated every year on November 1st, with masses and remembrance services in cemeteries to remember the dead.

Two roses and a candle on a grave in the West Cemetery in Munich on November 1st, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

On All Saints’ Day, it’s customary to decorate graves of the deceased with flowers, candles and even food and drink.

While the day is recognised as a religious feast day throughout Germany, only the more traditionally Catholic states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland offer a public holiday. 

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

To commemorate someone/something – jemaden/etwas gedenken

Grave – (die) Grabe

Day of Prayer and Repentance – Wednesday, November 16th

Where: Saxony and Bavaria (for school children)

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

Every year, the Wednesday before Totensonntag  (the Sunday of the dead – this year November 20th) – is known as the Day of Prayer and Repentance.

Historically, Buß und Bettag was a call to the nation to pray together and confess sins, in the hope that this would prevent future disasters.

Today, the holiday is used for reflection on individual and social issues and many Protestant congregations hold services on this day for this purpose.

Up until 1995, the religious holiday was a national holiday, but now it is only a day off for everyone in Saxony and for school children in Bavaria.

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

To pray – beten

To confess sins – die Sünde bekennen

Christmas Day – Sunday, December 25th

Where: Nationwide

One of the most important days in the Christian calendar, the celebration which commemorates the birth of Jesus is always a nationwide public holiday in Germany.

Candles decorate a Christmas tree in a living room. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

But, unlike, for example, in the UK, if it falls on a weekend, it’s not compensated for with a free weekday in the following week. That’s sadly the case this year, as the 25th will fall on a Sunday.  

READ ALSO: Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

Christmas day – der erste Weihnachtstag

Boxing Day – Monday, December 26th 

Boxing day – or as it’s known in Germany, der zweite Weihnachtstag (the second Christmas day) is also always a nationwide holiday. 

In Germany, the 26th is traditionally a day to spend visiting grandparents or godparents. 

Luckily, this year, the 26th falls on a Monday, which means everyone in Germany will enjoy a day off for the last public holiday of the year. 

Useful vocabulary for this holiday: 

To visit – besuchen

What about 2023?

2023 doesn’t get off to a great start in terms of public holidays, as January 1st – New Year’s Day – like Christmas Day, falls on a Sunday, meaning that most Germans will miss out on a free day off work.

But, for the rest of the year, all of the other major holidays will fall on weekdays, so those in employment will get the most out of them. We’ll make sure to round them all up for you soon so you can plan your time off for next year. 

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German employers ‘must give notice of holidays expiring’, court rules

Employers in Germany often set strict deadlines for taking annual leave - but a new court ruling states that these deadlines could be invalid if employees don't inform their workers of the rules.

German employers 'must give notice of holidays expiring', court rules

Whether it’s a heavy workload or prolonged illness, there are plenty of reasons that holiday days can end up going unused. In many cases, they simply expire at the end of the calendar year – but are there some cases in which they shouldn’t expire at all?

According to a new decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – the highest court in the EU – some workers may be entitled to compensation for their “expired” holidays after all.

In a landmark ruling based on a dispute in Germany, the ECJ has stated that deadlines for taking holidays are only valid from the date when the employer tells their employees about the rules. It means that if workers are unaware that they have to use their annual leave within a certain time, these holiday days can still be taken after the supposed deadline has passed.

The latest decision comes on the back of a similar ruling by Germany’s Federal Labour Court in 2019, which obliged employers to remind their workers to take their holiday before it expired.

The Labour Court said that the reminders should be addressed directly to the employee in writing and should inform them explicitly that their holiday days could expire if the employee decided not to take them.

READ ALSO: Why German employers will soon have to record staff working hours

Law firm dispute

In the latest case in question, a tax clerk who worked at a law firm from 1996 to 2017 claimed she was entitled to financial compensation for 76 days of holiday.

Her contract entitled her to 24 days of annual leave, which she said she was unable to take over a number of years because she had too much work to do.

At the beginning of March 2012, her employer certified that she was entitled to a total of 76 days of remaining leave from 2011 and previous years.

This did not expire on March 31st 2013 as usual because she had not been able to take it “due to the heavy workload in the office”, the ruling explained. 

In the following years, the employee once again did not take the full amount of annual leave she was entitled to. During this time, the employer did not remind her to take her holidays, nor did he indicate that the entitlement to leave could be forfeited if she did not take it.

Financial compensation

After the tax clerk left the firm in July 2017, she received just €3,201.38 for 14 days of leave that hadn’t been taken in 2017. 

According to the employee, at least 101 further days of leave were unaccounted for. In a court complaint, she demanded full compensation for these additional days of unused holiday.

However, her previous employer argued that the time limit for taking the holiday days had expired.

The case was initially heard by Solingen Labour Court and then by Düsseldorf Regional Labour Court. It subsequently ended up before the Federal Labour Court, who asked the ECJ to provide an opinion on whether Germany’s three-year cap on taking annual leave was compatible with European law.

READ ALSO: Bildungsurlaub: What is Germany’s ‘education holiday’ and how can I use it?

The entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Germany’s three-year cap on untaken leave is compatible with EU law. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Nicolas Bouvy

According to the ECJ, the time limit isn’t problematic. However, it can only apply from the date that the employee is informed about the rule.

That means that, if workers are unaware that their holiday days can expire, the days can be still be taken after the three-year time limit is up. 

“Indeed, since the employee is to be regarded as the weaker party to the employment contract, the task of ensuring that the right to paid annual leave is actually exercised should not be shifted entirely to the employee,” the judgment from Luxembourg states.

The former law firm employee is now likely to be entitled to a hefty payout from her previous employer. In its own judgement, the Federal Labour Court declared that the complainant was entitled to compensation for 76 days of leave at a rate of €228.64 per day.

This equates to a payout of around €17,400 plus interest.  

READ ALSO: Which public holidays are coming up in Germany?