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Corpus Christi in Germany

Corpus Christi (Fronleichnam) falls on a Thursday 60 days after Easter Sunday. The day honors the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord's Supper), which is important in the Catholic church. Corpus Christi is a public holiday in some parts of Germany and is marked by parades for the blessed sacrament (in form of bread or wafers).

Is Corpus Christi a Public Holiday?

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in 8 states, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Corpus Christi celebrates the Eucharist, also known as the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion.

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What Do People Do?

Many Catholics and some Protestants in Germany attend a church service on Corpus Christi. During the church service, special attention is paid to the sacrament's blessing. The sacrament consists of bread or wafers that are believed to be Jesus' body. In many places, the blessed sacrament is paraded outside during or after the service. This often results in a colorful celebration, especially in small villages.

A procession by ships is held on the banks of the Rhine in Cologne. This is known as the Muelheimer Gottestracht and has been held every year since 1435. It is possible for passengers to ride on some of the ships in the procession.

The custom's origins are uncertain. However it is thought that a thief wanted to cross the river by boat but an unseen force prevented the boat from crossing the water. This was seen as God finding a way to punish the thief for his sins.

Public Life

Corpus Christi is a public holiday in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland and in some parts of Sachsen and Thuringia. Post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed in these areas. However, stores in some tourist areas may be open and stores at railway stations, airports and along highways are usually open.

Public transport schedules may be normal, reduced or have no service depending on where one lives or wants to travel. Corpus Christi is not a public holiday in the rest of Germany.

Background

Corpus Christi became a Christian feast following the work of the nun known as Juliana of Liege, a city now in Belgium. She lived from 1193 until 1252 and repeatedly had visions of Jesus reminding her that there was no special feast day for the Blessed Sacrament. Many Christians celebrated the festival as far back as 1246.

Then, in 1264, Pope Urban IV ordered that the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament should be celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Since Trinity Sunday is one week after Pentecost, Corpus Christi is 10 days after Pentecost and 60 days after Easter Sunday.

Symbols

The Eucharist is a celebration of the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Common symbols are the bread or wafers and the wine that are believed to be Jesus' body and blood, the plate that holds the bread and the chalice that holds the wine. Other symbols are processional banners and cloths to protect the blessed sacrament (bread or wafers) as it is paraded outdoors.

About Corpus Christi in other countries

Read more about Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2015ThuJun 4Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2016ThuMay 26Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2017ThuJun 15Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2018ThuMay 31Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2019ThuJun 20Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2020ThuJun 11Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2021ThuJun 3Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2022ThuJun 16Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2023ThuJun 8Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2024ThuMay 30Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
2025ThuJun 19Corpus ChristiChristian, Common local holidayBW, BY, HE, NRW, RLP, SL, SN*, TH*
* Observed in some communities of Saxony and Thuringia only.

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