The jpoc guide to public holidays in Germany.

Don't ever expect to understand these.

Germany has the public holidays that you would expect to find at Christmas, New Year and Easter. However, they differ in one important aspect. If the holiday falls on a weekend, do not expect to get a compensatory day on the following weekday.

With the exception of those three holidays, all English public holidays normally fall on a Monday at a fixed point in the calendar. (For example, the August bank holiday falls on the last Monday in that month.)

Things are different in Germany. The matching holidays still fall on the dates prescribed by the relevant church holy days. Some of these fall on a set date such as November the First in celebration of my birthday. Others fall on a date that wanders around the calendar to follow Easter.

When one of these holiays falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, it is normal for companies to declare a bridge day or Brucke Tag. Sadly, this does not mean that you get a decent game of cards, instead, you have to take an additonal day's holiday. Big shops are all open on these days but you may well find the small shops and tradesmen shut up for the Bridge day. In the holiday is on a Thursday, some small shops will close not just on the holiday and the bridge day but also on the Saturday.

OK, is that clear enough? I was afraid so but never mind. With the exception of Christmas, Easter, New Year and Mayday, public holidays are all optional and it is left to the discretion of each region as to which holidays it will allow.

Sometimes, a region will change its choice of options from one year to another as different political parties come to power. The general result is that few people are really certain of which days will be holidays in their region.

One important aspect of public holidays in Germany is shopping. Consider Easter. On the Thursday before Good Friday, you know that the shops will be closed on the Friday. But, the supermarkets will all be open on the Saturday so, you only need to go shopping for the things that you will need for the Friday. That cuts no ice with the locals. On the day before a public holiday, every able bodied German feels the need to visit at least one supermarket and buy a whole trolly load of stuff. It's a kind of national tradition that has to be seen to be believed. Sometimes, you cannot actually get into a supermarket because the checkout queue goes all around the store and blocks the entrance!

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