The history of Germany’s national holiday (it wasn’t always October 3)

We are gearing up to celebrate German Unity Day on October 3. This national holiday celebrates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990 – the day that East Germany and West Germany came together as one country. German Unity Day is to Germans what Fourth of July is to Americans – except for the fact that it is a much more recent holiday.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Germany’s national holiday has changed several times in history. Before 1871, Germany consisted of various kingdoms and principalities. Once these regions united into an empire, there was still no national holiday – but there was a celebration of the victory in the Franco-Prussion War, the so-called Sedantag. The date was changed and debated on several times, but eventually the Sedantag celebration was moved to January 18.

During the Weimar Republic, Germany’s national holiday was moved to August 11 and called “Constitution Day” in honor of President Friedrich Ebert’s signing of the Weimar Constitution.

After the Nazis took power in 1933, May Day (May 1) became Germany’s national holiday. Up until that point, Germany already celebrated the labor movement on May Day.

This date, however, did not last long. In 1939, Adolf Hitler declared November 9 – the day of the Beer Hall Putsch – the “Memorial Day for the Movement” and Germany’s national holiday.

After the fall of the Nazi regime, there were two national holidays. West Germany marked June 17 as the “Day of German Unity”, commemorating the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany. Meanwhile, East Germany celebrated its “Founding Day” on October 7, 1949.

Heinrich Albertz speaks in front of a crowd on June 17, 1967 in honor of West Germany’s national holiday. © dpa / picture-alliance

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, East Germany and West Germany were officially reunited on October 3, 1990 – and that day became the country’s lasting national holiday. This Wednesday, we will be celebrating German Unity Day for the 28th time since that historic date. We hereby wish you a joyful German Unity Day!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

© dpa / picture-alliance

3 thoughts on “The history of Germany’s national holiday (it wasn’t always October 3)”

  1. Technically speaking, Constitution Day was not adopted as the German national holiday, but democrsts of all colors certainly celebrated it as such (especially in 1929 on the occasion of the Weimar Constitution’s tenth anniversary).

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