Greener BeeGreen HolidaysGermany hangs up its dancing shoes for Good Friday ‘Tanzverbot’

While The Beatles might have once told revelers at Hamburg’s Star Club to “Twist and Shout,” there won’t be so much as a shimmy and a shake in many of Germany’s night clubs and bars come Good Friday.

With restrictions varying across Germany’s 16 states, the dancing ban, or “Tanzverbot,” effectively bars public dancing on the Christian holiday. In some states, the ban, which encompasses all manner of activities beyond dancing, lasts for a number of days.

Read: Easter traditions in Germany

‘Silent public holiday’

Berlin is by far the most liberal state when it comes to upholding the “silent public holiday,” with the “Tanzverbot” only in place from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Good Friday.

In the southern, largely-Catholic state of Bavaria, however, the prohibition runs for 70 hours: from 2 a.m on Maundy Thursday until midnight on Holy Saturday. Penalties vary, but violators, namely event organizers or owners of an establishment, risk fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,590).

  • Germany’s dancing ban and other peculiar Good Friday prohibitions

    Guilty feet have got no rhythm

    The most infamous of Germany’s banned Good Friday activities is dancing. Described by critics as the “thwarting of night owls,” the dancing ban or “Tanzverbot” has long been disputed. Rules vary across Germany’s 16 states, with Berlin being the most liberal: The ban is only in place there from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Good Friday. Penalties vary, but violators risk fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,590).

  • Germany’s dancing ban and other peculiar Good Friday prohibitions

    Naughtius Maximus

    More than 700 films which apparently violate the “religious moral feeling of silent Christian holidays” are banned from public viewing on Good Friday. Included on the “Public Holiday Index” are “Ghostbusters” and the seemingly harmless 1975 cartoon classic “Heidi.” Since 2013, an initiative in Bochum has shown Monty Python’s 1979 religious satire “Life of Brian” in protest.

  • Germany’s dancing ban and other peculiar Good Friday prohibitions

    Red card for sporting events

    Many public sporting events are included in the ban during Germany’s “silent public holidays.” Football matches in the Bundesliga and second division are also rescheduled, as they, too, fall under the prohibited category of “taproom and food establishments.”

  • Germany’s dancing ban and other peculiar Good Friday prohibitions

    Bad luck for gamblers

    As on all German public holidays, shops and supermarkets are closed all day. Thinking of trying your luck on a slot machine to fund those chocolate eggs? Think again. Slot machines are also out of service during the “silent holidays.” Other prohibited activities include the car wash, moving house and private jumble sales.

  • Germany’s dancing ban and other peculiar Good Friday prohibitions

    No clowning around

    In the southern German state of Bavaria, the “Tanzverbot” runs for 70 hours – from 2 a.m on Maundy Thursday until midnight on Holy Saturday. Despite relaxing the ban in 2013 (it previously began two hours earlier, at midnight before Maundy Thursday), the largely-Catholic state decided a year later that circus events should also be included under the ban.

    Author: Kate Brady

Dating back to the Middle Ages, dance prohibitions in Germany existed long before public holidays were legally anchored in the German calendar.

But for Christians, it was always deemed inappropriate to dance or celebrate during Holy Week – the seven days leading up to Easter Sunday – particularly Good Friday, on which Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. For Catholics, the day is one of fasting and abstinence.

Read: Israel expects an influx of visitors at Easter

‘Thwarting of night owls’

While some protesters have dubbed the dancing ban “unconstitutional” and a “thwarting of night owls,” a YouGov poll published on Monday found that 52 percent of Germans have no qualms with the “Tanzverbot.”

So with more than half of Germany apparently happy to have a quiet night in on Good Friday, what’s all the song and dance about?

“The freedom-restricting rules of the ‘silent holidays’ are an idea from yesteryear,” spokesperson for Hanover’s Green Youth Party Timon Dzienus told DW. “We need a secular relationship between the state and the church rather than religiously-based interventions on individual freedom.”

‘Holocaust memorial day more fitting’

In partnership with the youth parties of Hanover’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the city’s Green Youth Party is on Thursday – Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar – holding a dance demonstration against the ban.

‘We dance when we want!’ – Pirate Party demonstrators at a 2015 anti-‘Tanzverbot’ protest in Stuttgart

Instead of holding the “silent public holiday” on a religious holiday, Dzienus is calling for an alternative with historical pertinence.

“Holocaust memorial day on January 27 or VE-Day on May 8 would be more fitting,” Dzienus told DW.

But dancing isn’t the only activity to be prohibited on Germany’s “silent public holiday.” Car washes, jumble sales and moving house are also banned, as well as an extensive list of more than 700 films, all of which are deemed unacceptable works that violate the “religious moral feeling of silent Christian holidays.”

‘Act of deliberate provocation’

Included on the “Public Holiday Index” are films such as “Ghostbusters,” the seemingly harmless 1975 cartoon classic “Heidi” and “Life of Brian.” Since 2013, an initiative in the western city of Bochum has held a public viewing of Monty Python’s 1979 religious satire in protest.

This year’s “act of deliberate provocation” will be no exception, organizer Martin Budich told DW. Echoing comments from Hanover’s Green Youth Party, the psychologist said showing the movie is part of the fight for a separation between church and state.

Martin Budich said the ‘illegal’ showing of ‘Life of Brian’ in Bochum is an ‘act of deliberate provocation’

“It’s the state’s responsibility to ensure that people are able to practice their religion,” Budich said.

“If Christians want to commemorate the crucifixion of their deity 2,000 years ago, that’s fine. But the rest of us shouldn’t have restrictions imposed upon us,” he added.

In 2014, Budich was handed a 300-euro fine for showing “Life of Brian” on Good Friday. After appealing, this was reduced to 100 euros.

Read more: How to celebrate Easter in Germany

“This was our first success,” Budich said. After standing before court on several occasions for showing the film, the path was cleared last June for Budich to file against the public holiday law in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germany’s federal court ruled in November last year that a ban on a similar event in Munich was “unconstitutional,” and the chances of success for Budich are now looking bright.

The “Heidenspass statt Höllenqual” (Heathen fun not agony) initiative, which was banned in 2007, will be held in Munich on Friday for the first time in 10 years.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    A celebration of life

    Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. In Germany, Easter is known as “Ostern” and the commemoration begins a week before, on Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The week leading up to Easter is know as Holy Week, or “Karwoche” in German.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Keep the noise down

    Good Friday, “Karfreitag,” the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, is a public holiday in Germany, as is the Monday after Easter Sunday (“Ostermontag”). Don’t think you can enjoy the long weekend by hanging out in clubs, though. In 12 of Germany’s 16 states, events with loud music are prohibited all day on Good Friday. In three states, loud music is just banned during certain hours.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Why Easter always falls on a different day

    According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was observed at the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Based on the Gregorian calendar, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following Passover: that is, depending on lunar cycles, between March 22 and April 25. German pupils look forward to two weeks of vacation surrounding the Easter holiday.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Pagan parallels

    The pagan festival Ostara, named for the ancient Germanic goddess of fertility, was celebrated during the vernal equinox to mark the beginning of spring. Since the ritual roughly coincides with Easter – which also celebrates new life -, some of the symbolism was shared. That’s how the egg and the hare, which both stand for fertility, made their way into our modern-day Easter celebrations.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Germany’s first Easter Bunnies

    It was German scientist Georg Franck von Franckenau who in 1682 first wrote about the tradition of a mythical Easter Bunny that hid eggs in the garden for children to find. The custom was being practiced in the central and southwestern German regions, including Alsace and Palatinate. The tradition stuck – and now kids around the world try extra hard to find the eggs they missed last year.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Eggs grow on trees in Germany

    As every farm kid knows, rabbits don’t lay eggs. They grow on trees – at least in Germany. Decorating both full-sized outdoor trees and smaller indoor versions with colorful eggs, similar to a Christmas tree, is a centuries-old German Easter tradition. Often, indoor trees are adorned with elaborately decorated porcelain eggs. The custom joins two symbols of life: the egg and the tree.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Chocolate lovers’ paradise

    Chocolate does not symbolize life, spring or fertility – but it’s nevertheless inseparable from Easter. Over 200 million chocoloate bunnies are produced in Germany each year, with around 40 percent being exported abroad. Lindt, pictured, is actually a Swiss company, but has a factory in Aachen, in western-most Germany, and is one of the most common bunny brands.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Sugary sweet Easter lambs

    While the egg as a symbol for life dates back to ancient Rome, the symbolism of the lamb is much older. The Jews of the Old Testament sacrificed unblemished lambs in religious rituals. Christians later adopted the image of the sacrificial lamb in reference to Christ’s crucifixion. In Germany, lamb isn’t just a main course: Sweet Easter lambs formed from cake and powdered sugar are common.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Easter surprises

    The gift of calories is still the most popular Easter present in Germany, according to a 2015 Statista survey: 62 percent give sweets on Easter, while 38 percent give eggs. However, nearly half (45 percent) said they purchase small items like games, books or stuffed animals for their loved ones, especially kids. But not everyone participates in Easter commerce: 22 percent don’t give gifts.

  • How to celebrate Easter in Germany

    Extinguishing winter

    According to an early Saxon tradition, fires are lit in Germany and elsewhere in northern Europe on Easter Saturday or Sunday. In the pre-Christian spring ritual, the fire was likely meant to expel winter. In rural northern Germany, Easter bonfires are lit by official brigades or on private premises and can turn into small festivals. The fire generally burns throughout the night.

    Author: Kate Müser

Despite the protests, the Christian church in Germany insists on the importance of Good Friday, with many bishops and priests using the day to recall terrorism and wars, catastrophes and famines across the world.

The President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said he couldn’t understand the debate.

To remember suffering, he said, is “an important cultural property” that goes beyond religion.

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