Cultural Differences IX – Holidays

It was Friday night, getting late, and our hostess casually mentioned, “of course, tomorrow is a holiday.” Nobody told me.

I knew Saturday was January 6. I knew in the church calendar that is Epiphany, the dated celebrated for the arrival of the Magi. But I’m from Canada; it never occurred to me that the date was important enough to be a holiday.

I had planed on grocery shopping Saturday, picking up some staples like flour and sugar that were depleted during the Christmas baking season. So much for that plan. I would also have bought a litre or two of milk, and perhaps some butter, because we go through a lot of both and the stores aren’t open Sundays. That wasn’t going to happen either.

Epiphany was sunny and warm, so it was a nice day to have a walk, play some mini-golf and take in a concert at a local church. All of which could have been done without the holiday – it was Saturday after all; it isn’t officially a work day for most of us.

The sudden holiday got me to thinking about the nature of the calendar and the rhythm of our working days. After all, we just finished Christmas and New Year’s, and now there was another holiday. Unlike in Canada, the Monday wasn’t a day off because the holiday fell on a weekend.


One of many roadside shrines in our area. When we go for a walk through the vineyards we can pass a half dozen of these in just a few minutes. Some are hundreds of years old, others more recent.

Turns out Epiphany isn’t a holiday everywhere in Germany, but it is in this state, Baden-Wurttemberg, supposedly because of a large Roman Catholic population. Turns out Epiphany isn’t the only holiday I am going to have to watch out for.

I knew Labour Day was in May here, not September like it is in Canada. But Ascension Day? Pentecost (and that one the holiday is the Monday since Pentecost is always on Sunday, like Easter). Corpus Christi Day? I definitely see a religious theme to the holidays or maybe I should use the old English, holy days.

Canadian holidays have become more secular than religious during my lifetime. We have the Queen’s birthday and Heritage Day and the Civic holiday. Most people, I don’t think, would describe themselves as practicing Christians, even if there is some cultural remnant of the faith and we still have Christmas and Easter holidays. Most churches are pretty empty on Sunday morning.

I wonder if that is true in Germany? The German churches I have been to so far on Sunday mornings haven’t been, with one exception, haven’t been part of the state-church system. And I can’t judge by that one day I did attend a state church because it was a special day of Remembrance when non-churchgoers were more likely to put in an appearance.

I imagine over time I will find out. In the meantime, I am going to have to be more careful about checking the calendar, just so I don’t get caught again and run out of milk.

One comment

  1. […] I’m wrong. This is a very religious area of Germany. As I have previously noted the school holidays are religious ones (the kids get two weeks off for Pentecost!) and maybe there […]

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