German Catholics observe a religious holiday Thursday. It’s “Allerheiligen,” or All Saints Day. It’s not an official holiday in all of Germany but it is in the states with mainly Catholic population such as Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Baden-Würrtemberg and Nordrhein-Westfalen. Here, stores, banks and public offices remain closed. The day is a regular workday in the rest of Germany.
Traditionally, on Allerheiligen, or even some days prior, Germans visit cemeteries to light candles and to decorate the gravesites of deceased family members and friends with flowers or wreaths made of fir tree branches, pine cones and dried flowers.
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.
Actually, the tradition of visiting cemeteries should be executed the following day, All Souls Day, observed by the Catholic church as a day of prayer for souls in purgatory. But All Souls Day is not an official holiday, and that’s why most people visit the gravesites on All Saints Day, their day off.
November is known as the month of remembrance, contemplation and mourning. Protestants remember the dead on “Totensonntag,” Nov. 25. 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. 18. It is dedicated to the memory of the dead of World War I and II and the victims of Nazi terror.
Another religious but not official holiday is the Day of Prayer and Repentance Nov. 21.