Germans observe religious holidays in November

Story and photo by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On Saturday, many Germans will visit cemeteries to decorate the gravesites of deceased family members and friends with flowers or wreaths made of fir tree branches, pine cones and dried flowers, and to light candles. They do this because it is “Allerheiligen,” or All Saints Day, a religious holiday for Catholics.

It’s not an official holiday in all of Germany but in the states with a mainly Catholic population, such as Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg and Nordrhein-Westfalen. Here, stores, banks and public offices remain closed. The day is a regular workday in the rest of Germany.

Family members and friends place dried flower bouquets, candles and wreaths on gravesites at German cemeteries Saturday during All Saints Day.
Family members and friends place dried flower bouquets, candles and wreaths on gravesites at German cemeteries Saturday during All Saints Day.

The origin of All Saints Day dates back to May 13, 610, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated a special day to all saints who never received their own memorial day. Old calendars show that almost every day is dedicated to a saint. In the Pantheon in Rome, Pope Boniface honored all saints who lived with Christian ideals in all countries of the world. In 1835, Pope Gregor IV moved All Saints Day to Nov. 1.


November is known as the month of remembrance, contemplation and mourning. Protestants remember the dead on “Totensonntag,” Nov. 23. It always falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent Sunday. In 1816, this memorial day was introduced for the first time in Prussia, from where it spread throughout the years to all Protestant regions.

The National Day of Mourning will be observed Nov. 16. It is dedicated to the memory of the dead of World War I and II and the victims of Nazi terror. Wreath-laying ceremonies will take place in Ramstein-Miesenbach and Kaiserslautern.

Another religious, but not official, holiday is the Day of Prayer and Repentance Nov. 19. It is considered a day of reflection for Protestants, and some Protestant churches offer worship services at night.