November always seems a sad month in Germany. One reason is the weather. Although November days can be absolutely beautiful, especially when the sun is shining and you can see the trees with all their colourful leaves. But often it’s just wet or damp or foggy.
Then there are several church/ public holidays, seven, in total, of which only two are cheerful. The others are times for reflection, prayer and remembrance.
Let’s look at them:
Allerheiligen – All Saint’s Day – on the 1st November is a Catholic holiday and is a public holiday in those German states which are predominantly Catholic. The Catholic Church has thousands of saints and although they all have their own day to celebrate them, on November 1st the Church celebrates all of them.
Allerseelen – All Souls – is the day after, on the 2nd November. This is when Catholics remember the loved ones who have died. It used to be a public holiday, but nowadays it’s a ‘semi’ holiday. In predominantly catholic states schools and public buildings are closed, but shops remain open.
St Martin is on the 11th November. This is the day where in memory of St Martin many children go from door to door in the evening with laterns and singing, hoping to receive some sweets. You can read more in a blog post I wrote a few years ago: Ich geh’ mit meiner Laterne
Volkstrauertag – Remembrance Day/ National Day of Mourning – is always on the Sunday before ‘Totensonntag’ (In 2023 on Sunday 19th November). It is not a church but a state holiday and it was originally to remember all the German soldiers who died during the First World War. Today, Volkstrauertag is dedicated to the memory of the war dead of both world wars and the victims of National Socialism. Nationwide there are wreath-laying ceremonies and church services.
Buß- und Bettag
Buß- und Bettag – Repentance Day – is a day of prayer and refection for Protestant Christians. It used to be a public holiday but nowadays Saxony is the only German state left where it is a holiday. Buß- und Bettag is always on a Wednesday and 11 days before the first Sunday of Advent. In 2023 it’s on Wednesday 22nd November.
Der Totensonntag – Sunday of the Dead – is the day when Protestant Christians remember those loved ones who have died. This day is also often called Ewigkeitssonntag – Eternity Sunday. It is always the last Sunday before Advent and it concludes the Church year, the annual cycle of seasons and days observed in the Christian churches.
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new church year and therefore the Advent season. Advent means “arrival” and for Christians it means the arrival of God in the world through the birth of his Son Jesus. There are always four Advent Sundays before the 25th December, which means the first one can fall on any date between 27th November and 3rd December. In 2023 it’s the 3rd December.
EDIT 2023: In our ‘Ask Angelika’ shows we spoke about these days: