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Reformation Day in Germany

Reformation Day is a public holiday in five states in Germany on October 31 each year to remember the religious Reformation in Europe. It commemorates when German monk and theologian Martin Luther’s proposals were nailed on the doors of a church in 1517. This event was the start of religious and social changes in Europe.

Is Reformation Day a Public Holiday?

Reformation Day is a public holiday in 9 states, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Reformation Day commemorates the efforts that theologian Martin Luther made towards religious and social changes.
Reformation Day commemorates the efforts that theologian Martin Luther made towards religious and social changes.
©iStockphoto.com/Christina Hanck

What Do People Do?

Many members of the Lutheran and some Reformed Churches, attend special church services to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther's proclamation. Other people have a day off work to spend time with family or friends.

Many people use the day to shop or visit attractions in countries, such as Austria, Poland or Switzerland, as these countries are close to the German states. They also celebrate Reformation Day as a public holiday.

Public Life

Reformation Day is a public holiday in a number of German states including: Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and Bremen. In these states, post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed.

Stores in some tourist areas may be open and stores at railway stations, airports and along highways are usually open. Public transport schedules vary depending on where one lives or wants to travel. This event is not a public holiday in the rest of Germany.

Background

Martin Luther was a monk, theologian and religious reformer. Many people also see him as the “Father of Protestantism”. During his life, he became disenchanted with the power that the Catholic Church had over people’s lives. He was particularly concerned about the sale of indulgences.

Indulgences are documents issued by the Catholic Church to grant full or partial pardon of sins. They are usually issued after prayer and good works. However, indulgences were also sold to finance projects sponsored by the Catholic Church around the 1500s. To express his concerns, Martin Luther nailed written works, known as The 95 Theses, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. In doing this, he started the Reformation.

The Reformation period started in Europe, particularly in Germany, in 1517 CE and ended around 1648 CE. It was a time of large religious and social changes.  The Catholic Church’s power and its role in mediating between the word of God and the general population were attached and many new Christian movements evolved.

Reformation Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SunOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2011MonOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2012WedOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2013ThuOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2014FriOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2015SatOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2016MonOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, MVP, SN, ST, TH
2017TueOct 31Reformation DayNational holiday 
2018WedOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, HB, HH, MVP, NDS, SH, SN, ST, TH
2019ThuOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, HB, HH, MVP, NDS, SH, SN, ST, TH
2020SatOct 31Reformation DayCommon local holidaysBB, HB, HH, MVP, NDS, SH, SN, ST, TH

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