Germany traditions: German Unity Day

Germany traditions: German Unity Day

by Jessica Zen and Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19, events regarding German Unity Day may be canceled this year.

Since Oct. 3, 1990 the national holiday of German Unity Day (“Tag der Deutschen Einheit”) has been celebrated. It observes the reunification of East and West Germany following more than 40 years of separation after World War II. As with many other German holidays, schools and most businesses are closed. It is Germany’s only non-religious, official national holiday.


The end of WWII left Germany and the city of Berlin divided into sections. France, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union received a section of both Germany and Berlin. The Soviet Union didn’t want to play nicely with the other countries, so France, Great Britain and the United States formed the Federal Republic of Germany in the west, while the Soviet Union formed the Democratic Republic of Germany in the east. West Germany thrived while East Germany fell into a communist society. The Berlin Wall was built by the Democratic Republic of Germany to prevent hordes of people from fleeing. On Nov. 9, 1989 the wall finally came down, and with it the separation of East and West Berlin.


For months leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, East German leaders had been under pressure to loosen travel regulations between East and West Germany. In an effort to placate politicians, newly appointed spokesman, Günter Schabowski, was told to announce the new travel laws at a press conference. Since he hadn’t been briefed ahead of time, when Schabowski was asked when the freedom of movement would take place, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Ab sofort” or “right away.”


Rather than a true reunification of two countries merging into one, East Germany was absorbed into West Germany. Due to economic uncertainty, in an effort to speed up the process, the five East German states voted to join West Germany and become a unified nation.


After unification, the city of Bonn (previously the capital of West Germany) remained the capital. A year later, it was moved back to Berlin. However, this move didn’t take effect until 1999 — nine years after Germany was united. Even now, there are still many government offices based in Bonn rather than Berlin.


While there is a huge celebration in Berlin each year, the official party, or “Bürgerfest”, is hosted by a different city each year. Typically, a federal state capital hosts the festival. The days-long celebration includes carnival rides, regional cuisine, theater performances, political speeches, concerts and an amazing fireworks display. On Oct. 3, many mosques are open to the public in an initiative to focus on the role Muslims played in forming modern Germany.

Look for events in your area to help celebrate this momentous holiday when East and West Germany were unified. To celebrate on a large scale, head straight to Berlin towards Brandenburg Gate, where festivals are held.

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