Happy (German) Unity Day

This morning, I had the unique experience of telling a German why the store he was looking to get into was closed today. After all, isn’t today Monday? Why yes, and tomorrow is Tuesday. It also happens to be one of Germany’s national holidays- celebrating Germany’s reunification 27 years ago.

How odd was my experience, you ask? It would be like telling a US American about the 4th of July. To be fair, the man probably didn’t grow up with the holiday. While many countries celebrate a national holiday at least 100 years old, Germany has the 3rd of October, 1990 that it commemorates. On this day, 26 years ago, Germany was officially one country again.

Now, many people think that German Unity Day is the day the Berlin Wall fell. It isn’t. The Berlin Wall actually fell on November 9th, 1989. While it may make sense to commemorate the fall of the Wall, making November 9th a national holiday would be celebrating the birth of Germany as a “republic” in 1918, Hitler’s failed putsch in Munich, but also the Reichspogromnacht- otherwise known as Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass. While a Germany history test could get pretty boring with this kind of line-up, the Germans felt it would be inappropriate to make the 9th of November a holiday, so it became October 3rd.

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Another weekend for Berliners to get annoyed at traffic.

While the holiday expressly celebrates unity, not reunification, the reunification of the BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) with the DDR (German Democratic Republic) after 41 years of political, social, and military separation lies at the center of the celebrations happening all over the country.

I don’t know how I missed posting about it two years ago, when I was in Germany for the first time on this day, but I didn’t want to miss out on it now. I even wandered into a street-festival, something I’m not a huge fan of–why do I want to get four Euro beer at a stand when I can get what I’ve stored in my fridge for less than a Euro?  But I did it. I’ll admit, the festival made for some unique shots of the Brandenburg Gate and TV tower.

 

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I was gratified that among the Berlin Burrito Bus, Kindle stands, and various carnival games, there was at least a stand (very fancy) hosted by the German Parliament with multiple touch screens showing quizzes to test one’s knowledge of the Bundestag (political body) and the Reichstag (the building where the Bundestag meets). I got 7/10. Better than the three German groups I saw go up before me.

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At least all those groups knew today was a holiday, as opposed to the poor man I met this morning. Still, it was nice to be the first to wish him a Happy German Unity Day/Frohen Tag der deutschen Einheit.

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17 comments

      1. Yes. It’s really hard to explain … it’s not just that the date is weird, 9th Nov wouldn’t be good either. It’s the age of the holiday, as you said, but also what was going on parallel at that time. It’s not at all like the 4th of July imho. In the beginning it wasn’t even celebrated, that changed though I suppose? You would know better!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know what you mean. I can’t even imagine what it was like for Germans to have reunification after 41 years… two generations had grown up without being unified, and all of a sudden, they’re supposed to be happy about East Germans streaming into west Germany? And the west Germans for the most part said that everything East German was worth nothing and they needed to adjust to West German standards.
        But that’s why people say it’s the unity that is celebrated, not the reunification. A unified Germany is a beautiful thing and worth celebrating! But it’s more solemn than Fourth of July, that’s for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I love how you see things! It’s really refreshing to get that perspective. If I talk to Germans it’s not about politics or the situation in Germany and they’ve been living there all their life. Wonder how it will be celebrated in another 10 or 20 years.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Annika. It wasn’t a “grand ole flag” kind of day, but rather, well, an excuse for a street fest and more political reflection than anything else. Still, it was a nice day off.

      Liked by 1 person

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