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Celebrating May 1st in Germany: Understanding “Tag der Arbeit”

Holidays in GermanyLabor day in Germany. May 1st, known as Labor Day, is a national public holiday in Germany with a history of over 130 years. Labor Day is celebrated in at least 65 countries globally and originated from a protest in Chicago in 1886, advocating for an eight-hour working day. In Germany, May 1st is often marked by festivities like dancing or protests, depending on personal choice. Here’s what will be closed on May 1st and what events will take place across Germany.

What will be closed for Labor Day?

Because of the official public holiday in Germany on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, banks and post offices will be closed. It is anticipated that supermarkets and most other businesses will also be closed on this day. However, cafes, beer gardens, restaurants, and other businesses in the hospitality industry that wish to operate can remain open to capitalize on the holiday. For instance, spätis or kiosks in bustling neighborhoods benefit greatly from the large crowds heading to parks and strolling through the streets, making May 1st one of the more lucrative days of the year.
Read also: 2024 public holidays in Germany – Mark these down!

What happens on May 1st in Germany?

Labor Day coincides with the German folk tradition of “dancing into May” (Tanz in den Mai). This tradition involves festivities that kick off on the evening of April 30th, allowing participants to “welcome” May by dancing into it on their own two feet, continuing the celebration until the early hours of May 1st. This custom translates into numerous dance parties scheduled for the evening of April 30th and daytime events on May 1st. Additionally, April 30th is traditionally Walpurgis Night, known as the “night of witches,” which is celebrated in many towns and villages around the Harz Mountains.

Dance parties in German cities

In Berlin, an event titled “Dancing Instead of Working” will take place on May 1st at Mariannenplatz starting at 10:00 a.m., and it’s free for everyone to attend. Nearby, there will be another free outdoor venue at Bolzplatz Falckensteinstraße in Xberg. Several clubs in the vicinity, like Renate and Ritter Butzke, will also host free events throughout the day.

In Cologne, the “big queer party” known as Maydance kicks off on April 30th at 10:00 p.m. at Quater1. Meanwhile, in Düsseldorf, dance parties will be held at Brauhaus Alter Bahnhof, along with an open-air event at the clubhouse of the SC Unterbach football team.

In Bavaria, May Dance is a significant part of the regional early spring celebrations, traditionally held at folk festivals in various villages and towns across the southeastern “Free State.” One of the larger May Day celebrations in Munich occurs at the Viktualienmarkt, featuring local bands, the raising of the traditional “Maypole,” and the enjoyment of seasonal Maibock beer.

Moreover, Munich offers numerous opportunities to dance the night away in modern clubs, such as Villa Flora for disco or La Rumba Latin Club for a lively party atmosphere. If you’re more inclined towards food and drink, Backstage Beergarten will be open on May 1st, serving Augustiner Maß krugs (large beers) for just 5 euros.
Read more: Days off and public holidays in Germany for May 2024

Where will protests take place in Germany?

No German city competes with the capital when it comes to Labor Day protests, and Berlin’s Kreuzberg district has a longstanding history of hosting some of the country’s largest May 1st demonstrations. This tradition continues today, with Berlin’s renowned central district remaining the focal point of May Day events. In the past, some May Day protests have resulted in significant property damage, including burned vehicles. Consequently, police warnings regarding “revolutionary May Day demonstrations” in Kreuzberg and Neukölln have become a Berlin tradition, and this holds true for this year as well.

In addition to the “revolutionary” demonstrations, there are nationwide rallies organized by the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB). According to the DGB website, this year’s main Labor Day event will take place in Hannover, featuring a rally on Goseriedeplatz followed by a family-friendly May festival featuring a concert.