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Vatertag – Father’s Day in Germany

Father’s day in Germany is so much more than gifting a tie. This public holiday is a day off work for everybody, and a chance for men to act like boys. Known as Vatertag (also Männertag), it involves drinking lots of beer, riding a beer bike, and, unfortunately, little responsibility.

Germany’s Vatertag coincides with Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt in German). It happens every year on the fortieth day after Easter on a Thursday in May.

But in Germany you’re more likely to see day-drinking debauchery than pious reverence for the holiday (unless you’re in Bavaria) and it’s not just because people are excited not to work. It is a national holiday around the country and the Friday following is usually a Bruckentag (bridge day) providing for a 4-day weekend. That means you can have one drunken day out and three days to recover.

The holiday actually has noble beginnings in the Middle Ages as a religious ceremony honoring Gott, den Vater (God, the father). Towards the 1700s, the day transformed into Vatertag, a family day honoring the father of the household. Men would be carted into the village center and the father with the most children would earn a reward, often a large ham.

It fell completely out of favor for a while, but made a comeback in the 19th century as Männertag. Losing the focus on dear old dad, it was billed as a “boys’ day out” or by its more positive euphemism for “gentlemen parties”. How that has transformed to today’s celebrations where there is nary a gentlemen to be seen is still a question.

While celebrations are generally men only, it is not limited to fathers. Any male with Männlichkeitswahn (machismo) and a desire to indulge in their caveman side can participate in Vatertag.

Popular activities for Father’s Day in Germany

If you’d like to honor your father, gifts are of course appreciated. Something as simple as a call is expected, or you can get creative. Better yet, buy papa a German beer to fit the spirit of the holiday.

Whatever the day brings, alcohol is likely to be involved. Männertag’s reputation as a Sauftag (drinking day) has made it unpopular among some segments of the public and – understandably – with the Polizei (police).

According to the UDV (German insurers accident research institute) there are three times as many alcohol-related traffic accidents on Männertag. Please remember: wherever the day takes you, it is your responsibility. Abide by all laws and regulations and be respectful of the authorities. Männertag is only one day a year, you don’t want to pay for it with the other 364.

For those that want to opt out of the celebrations, it is still a day off in May that offers the chance to enjoy beautiful weather. Stay out of the bars, avoid roving groups of men, and enjoy your holiday.

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