literal translation would be “party days” or “day of celebrations”, this is actually the German word for public holiday, or, as translators like to call them, “regular working
If you find yourself in Berlin in November all you really want to do is curl up next to the radiator (or coal-heated oven if you are retro) with a good book and a mulled wine/hot chocolate (delete as appropriate). But there’s no rest for the wicked because upon closer inspection the German calendar reveals a whole bunch of weird and senseless holiday traditions that require your involvement, especially if you have kids. Plus, every German person I know seems to be extremely well informed about each public holiday’s religious background and customs (which I secretly admire), while in England we just call every day off work a Bank Holiday without a thought for the occasion or traditions we are supposed to be celebrating. So it’s hard for us Brits to get our ex-pat heads round the whole concept! But unlike in England, where they make sure to fall on a Monday, most of the Feiertage in Deutschland are on random days like Sundays or aren’t even public holidays in the rest of Germany or statutory non-working days off, which makes it all the more annoying.
And just in case you’re not prepared, here’s a rundown of the best of the worst:
- Topping the senseless charts has to be Martinstag (or St. Martin’s Day in English) on 11th November. I am not even going to deign to translate it, as anyone with a kid will know it as “walk-in-the-mud-and-rain-with-a-soggy-lantern-till-your-kid-starts-crying-and-you-can-go-home-day”. Despite having had it explained to me every year about five times by some South-German über-mother, my brain is thankfully programmed to spontaneously delete this newfound knowledge five minutes later because it is so thoroughly uninteresting and completely useless in any other context other than November-in-a-Berlin-kindergarten-context. Which is why I am afraid I can’t tell you what the hell it is really all about. But you will survive. At least until:
- Buß und Bettag, or “booze and bed day” as I like to call it! This is actually a Protestant holiday calling for Prayer and Repentance that occurs on the third Wednesday of November every year (and falls on 20th November in 2013). But in reality it’s also just another excuse for everything to close down for a day, just to make you feel really miserable about being in Berlin in November…even Café November itself is shut on this day. So you’re best off sticking to my original translation of it and staying in bed with that bottle of Laphroaig you’d been saving for a rainy day or low point. This is it!And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse:
- Totensonntag = Dead Sunday, or as we translators insist on calling it “Sunday of Commemoration of the Dead.” (Heads up, this year it’s on Sunday 24th November). This one is particularly interesting as its defining feature is actually an ABSENCE of any activity. It's the one Sunday of the year when literally nothing happens and nothing is taking place anywhere around the city. (Ha! Take that Mexico with your overblown tasteless hedonistic, vibrant and fun Día de los Muertos full of colourful decorations and flowers and skulls and music and dancing and alcohol! Who needs tequila to celebrate death? Here in Berlin we can do it with nothing but drizzle and closed shops! ) And if you’ve lived in Berlin for a while, you’ll know that Sunday is not a very happening day at the best of times.
So don't say we didn't warn you! Try and have a happy, cosy November anyway and remember, Christmas with all its Advent and Nikolaus Feiertag fun is just around the corner…!