A somber holiday: Germany honors saints on Nov. 1
In certain regions across Germany, the day after Halloween is a solemn holiday in which Catholics and many Protestants honor the lives of Christian saints and deceased relatives. On All Saints’ Day, or Allerheiligen, special church services are held, prayers are whispered, and cemeteries are swept clean and decorated with flowers. As the sun begins to set over the headstones in the late afternoon, candles are lit and placed on the graves of family members and friends.
Although its origins have been disputed throughout history, the traditions of All Saints’ Day can be traced back to 609, when Pope Bonifatius IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon to the Blessed Virgin and Christian martyrs. This event also happens to coincide with the pagan Fest of the Lemures, a celebration that honored the dead.
Today, many cities have their own Allerheiligen traditions. For example, in Mainz, a colorful cone-shaped candle, or Newweling, is a symbolic component of All Saint’s Day. In other parts of Germany, godparents present gifts of Hefezopf, twisted bread made from yeasty dough, to their godchildren. No matter where you go, All Saints’ Day is considered a silent celebration in which dancing, loud music and other forms of raucous frivolity are banned from public spaces.
Recognized as a public holiday by Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Saarland, most post offices, banks and stores will be closed on Nov. 1; however, businesses in and around tourist destinations, along the Autobahns and near public transportation systems may remain open. Plan ahead to avoid unexpected kinks in your travel plans.