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What To Do On German Unity Day 2016

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 1 November 2016
Observed each year on October 3rd since 1990, when the east and west merged, German Unity Day is the country’s only federally administered holiday. While it is still a young day of celebration, many festivities are planned around the country. Here’s a list of the top things to do in honor of German unity.

Head to the Brandenburg Gate!

If you find yourself in Germany’s capital city on Unity Day, celebrating is pretty much a no-brainer. Each year the holiday is marked with a three-day festival around the Brandenburg Gate, which was a barren zone caught behind the wall during the Cold War. Now, people congregate here to enjoy beer and food in observance of the national day. There are family-friendly activities, including rides and games to boot. Additionally, there are vendors selling sweets and souvenirs, and often music and theatrical performances accompany the festivities.

Visit a mosque

On first thought, this might not seem like a relevant activity when it comes to celebrating German Unity Day. Yet, upon closer inspection, it is actually quite fitting. Because German Unity Day is intended to foster an atmosphere of plurality and inclusion across the entire country, this is a fantastic time to step out of your comfort zone and explore the many different cultures that make up this great country. To aid in this process, many mosques across Germany are open to the public in special ways on October 3rd, as a means of fostering interchange between Muslims and non-Muslims in addition to detailing the ways they have contributed positively to German society.

Cologne Mosque|© Raimond Spekking/WikiCommons
Cologne Mosque|© Raimond Spekking/WikiCommons

Enjoy a communal meal with family, friends, and neighbors

Another way to relish in the spirit of inclusivity on German Unity Day is to enjoy a communal meal with family, friends, and neighbors. This is one of the most common ways of celebrating the holiday around Germany. People gather together to share in each other’s company, something that wasn’t possible for many during the days when the country was divided, as families and friends were often split on either side of the wall. If the weather permits, this is also an excellent opportunity to have a final picnic of the season. In fact, famed Chancellor Helmut Kohl even stated that the holiday should be used for relaxation, feasting, and picnicking.

Relax on the day off

Of course, one of the easiest indicators that it’s German Unity Day is that it is a nationwide day off. In truth, Unity Day is still a young holiday and there hasn’t been much time since it was instated in 1990 for specific traditions to develop. According to polls, only about half of the population does anything in particular in remembrance of the holiday, though the majority feel it is an important day to be observed. Therefore, going low-key and simply relaxing is seen as a way to celebrate worthy of Chancellor Kohl.

Attend a fireworks show

Traditions are certainly on their way to solidifying, even if they are only in their early stages. For one, attending a fireworks show as part of a larger Bürgerfest is not uncommon for Germans residing in major cities around the country, much in the likeness of national holidays like the 4th of July in the United States. This is a relatively new addition to Unity Day’s celebratory repertoire, and only time will tell if it sticks. For those looking to get out of the house and partake in some festivities it is a fun option.

Travel to the host city

Finally, for those who are ambitious enough to get the low-down on customs surrounding Unity Day at their epicenter, travel to the city elected to host the national celebration that year. As Unity Day is the only federally administered holiday in Germany, each year the city where the federal government celebrates, and places like Frankfurt, Munich, Dresden, or Berlin, are passed the celebratory gauntlet, each one outdoing the last. The host city will undoubtedly be throwing the largest and liveliest Unity Day Bürgerfest in the country, complete with concerts, fairs, and vendors of all kinds. To round out the event, speeches by national politicians, including the Chancellor, are given.

© Bgabel/WikiCommons

Dresden, German Unity Day host 2016 | © Bgabel/WikiCommons