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Why does the Bavarian city of Augsburg have its own public holiday?

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
Why does the Bavarian city of Augsburg have its own public holiday?
Eva Weber (CSU), Mayor of Augsburg, speaks next to the word "Peace" at the Peace Table on the Rathausplatz. picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

Tuesday, August 8th is a day off work for residents of Augsburg, officially the city in Germany with the most public holidays thanks to one special day celebrated for nearly 400 years.

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The High Peace Festival (Hohes Friedensfest), which takes place every year on August 8th, has been an official public holiday in Germany since 1950. However, even though it’s recognised as a nationwide holiday, it’s only an official work-free day within Augsburg itself. 

That means that the city of around 300,000 residents boasts the most Feiertage (public holidays) in all of Germany, or one more than the already generous 13 in Bavaria.

READ ALSO: How do Germany's public holidays compare to other EU countries?

For the day, all public offices, shops, factories, and other businesses close their doors - and those in nearby cities look forward to more customers, as tourists make their way into Augsburg to celebrate.

For locals and visitors alike, the highlight of the holiday is the Friedenstafel (peace table) on the Rathausplatz (town hall square) starting at 11am, in which people bring food and drink from home and chat for hours amid long rows of tables.

Two smaller peace tables also take place in other neighbourhoods of Augsburg.

Peace table

People sit at the 'Friedenstafel' on Tuesday to celebrate the Peace Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

Where does the day originate?

The holiday is dedicated to religious freedom in Germany and dates back to the Thirty Years' War, when Protestants and Catholics were fighting over their religious rights.

On August 8th, 1629, the Catholic regime forbade the Protestants from practicing their faith, and ordered the closure of all Evangelical churches.

But over the course of the Reformation, Protestants finally received the right to freely practice their religion with the ‘Peace of Westphalia’ of 1648 - a now-famous treaty that ended the three decade long war and ensured, among other things, that the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed denominations were treated on equal footing.

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The first Augsburg High Peace Festival was held in 1650, and since then it has been celebrated annually at the start of August.

It was only suspended during the World War II years of 1942 and 1944. 

How else is the holiday celebrated?

Typical of the holiday are so-called peace paintings (Friedensgemälde), which are presented to nearby pupils and proclaim the message of equality. 

Since 1985, the “Award for the Augsburg High Peace Festival” has also been given out every three years.

The winners are people who have made a contribution to the peaceful coexistence of cultures and religions. Previous recipients have included former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 2005 and former German President Richard von Weizsäcker in 1994.

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