Labour Day in Germany in 2025

  How long until Labour Day?
Labour Day
  Dates of Labour Day in Germany
2025 Germany Thu, May 1 Public Holiday
2024 Germany Wed, May 1 Public Holiday
2023 Germany Mon, May 1 Public Holiday
2022 Germany Sun, May 1 Public Holiday
2021 Germany Sat, May 1 Public Holiday

This holiday is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement

  Local name
Tag der Arbeit
  Labour Day in other countries
Labour Day internationally

Labour Day in Germany

,Across Germany on May 1st, many festivals take place involving everything from dancing around poles to chasing away evil spirits. However, the official reason why banks, post offices and most businesses are closed on this day has to do with celebrating workers' rights. 

When is Labour Day?

This international holiday is observed on May 1st. It is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement. The holiday may also be known as International Worker's Day or May Day and is marked with a public holiday in over 80 countries.

History of Labour Day

The first May Day celebrations focused on workers took place on May 1st 1890 after its proclamation by the first international congress of socialist parties in Europe on July 14th 1889 in Paris, France, to dedicate May 1st every year as the "Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity."

The date was chosen due to events on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of May 1st 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket (in Chicago) Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.

The riots at Haymarket Square in Chicago had begun as peaceful demonstrations over the legal establishment of an eight-hour workday.

At a protest rally on May 4th 1890, a bomb was thrown at the police as they tried to disperse the crowds, resulting in the deaths of several police officers and some civilians.

Though the eight-hour workday was not fully adopted across America until the 20th century, the events in Chicago inspired similar protests across Europe, establishing May 1st as the day to recognise the rights of workers across the world.

May 1st is celebrated as May Day in most countries around the world. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the bank holiday isn't fixed on May 1st but instead is observed on the first Monday of May.

In the 20th century, the holiday received the official endorsement of the Soviet Union, and it is also celebrated as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers, especially in some Communist states. Celebrations in communist countries during the Cold War era often consisted of large military parades with the latest weaponry being exhibited as well as shows of common people in support of the government.

Curiously (given the origin of the May 1st date), the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September (May 1st is Loyalty Day, a legal but not widely recognized holiday in the United States). There is some suggestion that the reason for this was to avoid the commemoration of riots that had occurred in 1886. The adoption of May Day by communists and socialists as their primary holiday has been as another reason for the official resistance to May Day labor celebrations in America.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands also celebrate Labour Day on different dates; though that has to do with how the holiday originated in those countries.

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various communist, socialist, and anarchist groups.

Labour Day around the World

May Day

May 1st was also a pagan holiday in many parts of Europe, Its roots as a holiday stretch back to the Gaelic Beltane. It was considered the last day of winter when the beginning of summer was celebrated.

During Roman times, May 1st was seen as a key period to celebrate fertility and the arrival of spring. The Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring, was held between April 28th and May 3rd.

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, and dancing around a Maypole; festivities which made it a popular seasonal celebration in medieval England.

May Day Traditions in Germany

May Day in Germany is rife with old traditions, filled with myths and mysteries, and the celebration of spring.

Many local communities organize a dance, “Tanz in den Mai,” the night prior celebrating the beginning of warmer weather. That night is known as Freinacht, and also as Walpurgisnacht, which is - according to folklore - the one night of the year witches dance and fly on their brooms across the Brocken hill in the Harz region.

During Freinacht, the 'free night,' the young folks of a village may play pranks on their neighbours, a tradition that started many centuries ago with freshly enlisted soldiers enjoying one last night of freedom and mischief. Popular activities include wrapping things in toilet tissue, or stealing unguarded items like garbage cans or wheelbarrows, and then leaving them in a central place to be found the next day; these activities are tolerated, as long as there is no damage done.

Another old tradition is the Maisprung, the 'May jump'; a large bonfire is built on the outskirts of the village, and at midnight brave souls jump over the fire, literally jumping “into May.”

Some rural regions still celebrate the first day of May by putting up a “Maibaum,” a Maypole. It is a tall wooden pole made from a tree trunk (pine or birch), adorned with colourful ribbons, flowers, carved figures, and various other decorations, depending on local customs.

In former times it was cut fresh during Walpurgisnacht; nowadays the tree is cut earlier, so it can be cleaned up and decorated. Young men from a neighbouring village may try to steal the tree; therefore the tree has to be closely guarded by the owners. If a tree has been successfully stolen (specific rules of non-violence apply), the original owners can buy it back with a 'ransom pay' of beer and Brotzeit (a light meal), which is usually consumed by both parties together.

On May Day itself, community members gather to celebrate and dance around the Maypole; often a May Queen and May King are elected.

If the weather is good, many people enjoy a long hike or bicycle ride through the rolling hills and forests of their region, after which they find rest and nourishment in an outdoor restaurant, or they bring food and drink along in a pull-wagon. Drivers need to be on the lookout for groups of slightly intoxicated people unexpectedly crossing a country road.

History of Labour Day in Germany

Germany's observance of Tag der Arbeit dates back to 1890 when hundreds of thousands of people across Europe, inspired by the Haymarket riots in Chicago, protested on May 1st 1890, demanding better working conditions and the implementation of the eight-hour day.

Despite this movement, it was forty years later at the beginning of the Weimar Republic, that the eight-hour day was agreed upon and trade unions were officially recognised.

Labour Day was established as a German official holiday in 1933 after the NSDAP rose to power. It was supposed to symbolize the new found unity between the state and the working classes. Ironically, just one day later, on May 2nd 1933, all free unions were outlawed and destroyed. But since the holiday had been celebrated by German workers for many decades before the official state endorsement, the NSDAP attempt to appropriate it left no long-term resentment.

In Berlin, one of the largest marches campaigning for workers' rights nationwide takes place on May 1st in the Kreuzberg district. The marches have taken a violent turn in the past, but nowadays, events such as Berlin Myfest have turned the day into more of a festival than a fight.

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