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National Unity Day

National Unity Day

The Day of Unity is a public holiday in Germany celebrated on October 3. If October 3 falls on a weekend, it will not be moved to a weekday. This is Germany’s National Day and marks the reunification of Germany on this day in 1990.

History of German Unity Day

Since 1990, the ‘Tag der Deutschen Einheit’ has been a national holiday in Germany. It is the only official national holiday. All other holidays are managed at a federal level. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, paving the way toward the reunification of Germany, which had been split at the end of the second world war.  Germany reunified on October 3, 1990, when the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

Following the GDR’s first free elections on March 18, 1990, negotiations between the GDR and FRG culminated in a Unification Treaty.

Further negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called “Two Plus Four Treaty,” granting full sovereignty to a unified German state, whose two halves had previously been bound by several limitations as a result of its post-WWII status as an occupied nation. The treaty was signed on September 20, 1990. Originally November 9 was proposed to be the national German Unity Day reflecting the huge step taken toward Germany’s unification on that day.

However, the unification treaty declared October 3 as the official national holiday, ending the division between the east and west of Germany. Since then, German Unification Day has been celebrated in the capital of whichever federal state has the chair in the Federal Assembly (there are 16 federal states in Germany) each year. German Unification Day wasn’t added as an additional holiday. However, in the west, it replaced the original Day of German Unity, observed on the anniversary of a protest on June 17, 1953, in East Germany. In East Germany, the national holiday was October 7, the Day of the Republic (Tag der Republik), commemorating the GDR’s foundation in 1949.

How is German Unity Day Celebrated?

The Day of German Unity is celebrated yearly with a ceremonial act and a citizens’ festival (Bürgerfest). The celebrations are hosted by a major city, usually the state capital, in the German state presiding over the Bundesrat in the respective year (a sequence determined by the Königstein Agreement). The celebrations in the host city always include a festival and a fireworks show.
Recently, the main celebrations have been hosted in Potsdam, Kiel, Berlin, Mainz, Dresden, and Frankfurt. Fittingly, the first-ever Unity Day host city was the previously divided capital of Berlin.  After Bonn in 2011, Frankfurt was the second non-state capital to host the celebrations in 2015; however, both cities are significant in German political history (Bonn as the former capital of West Germany and Frankfurt as the place of the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848–49).

In addition, various celebrations are held in the federal capital Berlin, mainly based in areas with vital political and historical significance, such as the Platz der Republik, Straße des 17. Juni and the Brandenburg Gate. The capital’s celebrations include a festival featuring actors, comedians, musicians, and poetry performers, food and drink stands, and sweet stalls. State capitals and also other cities often have additional festivities.

While these celebrations are essential to Unity Day, many Germans often spend the day relaxing with family and friends as part of a more low-key public holiday. Most people in Germany do not display German flags or attend military parades for Unity Day, instead opting to partake in festivities at home. This includes watching TV, which often broadcasts documentaries about German history, watching politicians make Unity Day speeches, and enjoying lunch or dinner with family. 

5 Interesting Facts About the Berlin Wall

Two walls
The 27-mile barrier separating Berlin into east and west had two concrete walls with a 160-yards-wide ‘death strip’ in-between watchtowers, guard dogs, floodlights, machine guns, and more.
Death on the Wall
More than 100 people died by gunshots, fatal accidents, or suicide while trying to cross the Berlin Wall.
The great escape
More than 5,000 people escaped by going over or under the Berlin Wall.
Berlin in Vegas
A piece of the Berlin Wall is now in the Main Street Station Casino bathroom in Las Vegas.
In memory of Ida Siekmann
The Berlin Wall cycle route has a glass plaque honoring Ida Siekmann, the first person to die while trying to cross the wall and flee to East Berlin.

Why German Unity Day is Significant

It celebrates the unification of Germany.
The establishment of Germany as a federal country after years of the division since 1945 and the unification of East and West Germany is worth celebrating.
Fall of the Berlin Wall
It commemorated when the wall dividing communist East Germany and West Germany crumbled. Almost 50,000 people gathered in a mass protest in East Berlin just five days after.
Dissolution of the German Democratic Republic
The date marks the dissolution of the German territory controlled by the Soviet Union and the day it joined the Federal Republic of Germany.

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