May Day in Germany
May Day (Der Erste Mai, Tag der Arbeit) is an ancient festival to welcome the spring weather and to drive away evil spirits. It is also an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers rights, particularly in Berlin. May 1 is a public holiday in all German states.
What do people do?
Many people in Germany observe the night between April 30 and May 1 as Witches or Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht, Hexennacht). People in some areas light bonfires and spend the evening and night outside. Young people may play pranks, such as moving their neighbors' garden furniture or ornaments to other properties. Maypoles are also prepared for the following morning, known as May Day. Young men in Rhineland may put a branch wrapped in colorful ribbons in the garden of a girl he would like to marry. Young women place these branches in the gardens of young men during leap years.
On May 1, some people organize or attend marches or rallies to campaign for or celebrate workers' rights in Germany or abroad. These events may be tied with campaigns from other European countries. The largest march occurs in Berlin-Kreuzberg, an area of Berlin, and attracts many political activists.
Other people spend some time outdoors enjoying the spring weather on May Day. If this holiday falls close to Ascension Day or the Pentecost weekend, many people take a portion of their annual leave and go on a short vacation in Germany or a neighboring country.
May 1 is a public holiday and post offices, banks and many businesses are closed. Nearly all stores are closed, although they may be open in tourist areas. However, bakeries, petrol stations and stores at railway stations, airports and along highways are often open.
Public transport services may run a normal, reduced or no service depending on where one lives or wants to travel. Traffic may be disrupted in town centers where large parades are held.
Traditionally, people believed that witches held Walpurgis Night celebrations on the summit of the Blocksberg, a mountain in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, on the night between April 30 and May 1. People believed that it was dangerous to be outside on this night so they lit fires and danced wildly to deter the witches from coming too close to them or their homes. These traditions lead to the custom of lighting fires and erecting maypoles still seen today.
About May Day in other countriesRead more about May Day.
May Day Observances
|Weekday||Date||Year||Name||Holiday type||Where it is observed|
|Sat||May 1||2010||May Day||National holiday|
|Sun||May 1||2011||May Day||National holiday|
|Tue||May 1||2012||May Day||National holiday|
|Wed||May 1||2013||May Day||National holiday|
|Thu||May 1||2014||May Day||National holiday|
|Fri||May 1||2015||May Day||National holiday|
|Sun||May 1||2016||May Day||National holiday|
|Mon||May 1||2017||May Day||National holiday|
|Tue||May 1||2018||May Day||National holiday|
|Wed||May 1||2019||May Day||National holiday|
|Fri||May 1||2020||May Day||National holiday|
Quick FactsMay Day in Germany is a holiday to celebrate the start of spring and to campaign for workers' rights. It is always on May 1.
May Day 2015Friday, May 1, 2015
May Day 2016Sunday, May 1, 2016
Name in other languages
|Tag der Arbeit||German|
Other holidays in May 2016 in Germany
- Ascension Day – Thursday, May 5, 2016
- Mother's Day – Sunday, May 8, 2016
- Whit Sunday – Sunday, May 15, 2016
- Whit Monday – Monday, May 16, 2016
- Corpus Christi – Thursday, May 26, 2016