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May Day in Germany

Quick Facts

May Day in Germany is a holiday to celebrate the start of spring and to campaign for workers' rights. It is always on May 1.

Local names

NameLanguage
Tag der ArbeitGerman
May DayEnglish

May Day 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015
List of dates for other years

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.

Maypoles are prepared for May Day celebrations.

©iStockphoto.com/angi71

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.

Public life

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.

Background

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.

May Day (or Labor Day) celebrations and similar observances on workers' rights are worldwide, including in countries such as Australia , Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About May Day in other countries

Read more about May Day.

May Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday typeWhere it is observed
TueMay 11990May DayNational holiday 
WedMay 11991May DayNational holiday 
FriMay 11992May DayNational holiday 
SatMay 11993May DayNational holiday 
SunMay 11994May DayNational holiday 
MonMay 11995May DayNational holiday 
WedMay 11996May DayNational holiday 
ThuMay 11997May DayNational holiday 
FriMay 11998May DayNational holiday 
SatMay 11999May DayNational holiday 
MonMay 12000May DayNational holiday 
TueMay 12001May DayNational holiday 
WedMay 12002May DayNational holiday 
ThuMay 12003May DayNational holiday 
SatMay 12004May DayNational holiday 
SunMay 12005May DayNational holiday 
MonMay 12006May DayNational holiday 
TueMay 12007May DayNational holiday 
ThuMay 12008May DayNational holiday 
FriMay 12009May DayNational holiday 
SatMay 12010May DayNational holiday 
SunMay 12011May DayNational holiday 
TueMay 12012May DayNational holiday 
WedMay 12013May DayNational holiday 
ThuMay 12014May DayNational holiday 
FriMay 12015May DayNational holiday 
SunMay 12016May DayNational holiday 
MonMay 12017May DayNational holiday 
TueMay 12018May DayNational holiday 
WedMay 12019May DayNational holiday 
FriMay 12020May DayNational holiday 

Other holidays in May 2014 in Germany

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