Sundays and bank holidays in Germany

“For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of rest”

Resting on a Sunday is a very common idea all over the world, especially in Christianised countries. Some people go to church, others enjoy sleeping in after a night out, maybe you prepare a Sunday Roast, do some housework, go to town for a pint and some shopping. Everything is possible on the day of rest…or is it!? It might be in your country, but it is definitely not in Germany!

Germans take their Sundays very seriously. The Sunday rest is so important, that there is even a law for it! Since 1919 Sundays and bank holidays are “protected by law as days of rest from work and of spiritual improvement.” (Art. 139, German Basic Law). Along with the ‘Sonntagsruhe’ comes the ‘Ladenschlussgesetz’ which states that department stores, shopping centres etc. remain closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Yes, dear readers, that’s right! No open shops on Sunday or a bank holiday. No shopping at Edeka, Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland etc. If you are lucky, you will find a bakery that is open for some hours in the morning in order to secure the German ‘Sonntagsfrühstück’. Cities are empty, some people might go for a little stroll in the afternoon that is most likely to end in a café serving cakes. While English might go for a pint (or more, if it’s bank holiday weekend!), the German taste buds are conditioned to crave a piece of cake and a cup of coffee at 3pm: “Schon 15 Uhr?! Zeit für Kaffee und Kuchen!”
Hefezopf (find recipe in 'Baking. Backen')

This scenario leads to the question, what German people actually do on such a day, except for having a massive breakfast in the morning and cake in the afternoon. If the cities are empty, they must be at home, using their free time for some housework. That would be very efficient and very German, wouldn’t it? 
It might sound plausible to you, but: SUNDAY IS A DAY OF REST! Which is why housework is usually not done either! The Sunday silence, ‘Sonntagsruhe’, is such a big deal, that every action that causes noise or distraction from resting is absolutely unacceptable.
Remember my joyful moment of hoovering my English home on a Sunday? NOT okay in Germany. Mowing the lawn? Very offensive. Throwing your correctly collected glass bottles into glass containers? Are you insane??? The latter is actually prohibited, as can be seen on this glass container note:
"Please show consideration for your fellow citizens! Only bin bottles Monday-Saturday from 8am-1pm and 3pm-7pm. Not on Sundays or bank holidays. Thank you!"

I know what you think now: “Come on, Franzi! What’s the worst that can happen?”. 

In fact, people that see or rather hear your Sunday treachery can phone the police and report you for disturbance of their peace. And worse: Many are very likely to do so, especially Germans of the slightly older generation. The same applies for lawn mowing, felling trees with a chain saw or playing loud music. 
Hence, if you really feel the need to do some sort of work on a Sunday or any bank holiday, limit yourself to quiet tasks like dusting, cooking, watching television or eating breakfast, big lunch and cake in the afternoon. 
If that’s not satisfying and you really feel the urgent need to get out of the house, put on your functional clothes and hiking boots, and either join the cake addicts in town or the nature lovers. This way, nobody’s peace will be disturbed and you are allowed to call yourself a well-behaved, good German. Congratulations!

Note: The impossibility of buying groceries on Sundays might be a reason for the German urge to organise and plan ahead. After all, we have to make sure we have food in store since we cannot quickly nip into the shop on the day of rest. 


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