Why is dancing banned on Good Friday in Germany?
In many parts of the world, a day off work is considered a good cause for celebration, and people choose to mark the occasion by heading out for a night on the town. In Germany, however, there won't be much partying going on over the Easter long weekend.
The "Silent Holiday"
As any German worth their salt knows, one of the things you really shouldn’t do in Germany on Good Friday is shake your money maker.
It comes as quite a shock for most foreigners, for whom the national holiday is the perfect excuse for some general merriment, but in most parts of Germany the four-day weekend is considered a solemn “silent holiday” - and therefore carries a number of restrictions on revelry. Here’s what you need to know.
Is dancing really banned on Good Friday in Germany?
Yes, it may seem bizarre in the extreme to you, but on Good Friday it is illegal to dance in public for the entire day in 12 out of Germany’s 16 federal states. The remaining four enforce partial bans, meaning that nowhere in the country are your dance moves going to be particularly welcomed. Penalties vary, but violators risk run-ins with the police and fines of up to 1.500 euros.
In Germany’s more traditionally religious states in the south, things are taken even more seriously. Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg enforce stricter bans that begin on Maundy Thursday and run right through to Easter Sunday.
In Baden-Württemberg, background music is allowed in public spaces but dancing is expressly not permitted. In Bavaria, it is forbidden to play any type of music in bars, with violators facing fines of up to 10.000 euros.
Even in more “relaxed” states like North-Rhine Westphalia, music and entertainment events are prohibited on Good Friday and in Germany’s party capital, Berlin, the dancing ban is in place from 4am until 9pm on Friday.
Thankfully, the law says nothing about playing music between your own four walls - as long as it’s not too loud - so let the home disco commence.
What’s the history behind the dance ban (Tanzverbot)?
The decades-old ban rests on the principle that the Easter weekend should be solemnly observed out of respect for Christians, for whom Good Friday and Easter Saturday are days of mourning for Jesus’s crucifixion. In the Christian faith, these days are considered “holidays of silence”, rendering any lighthearted activity inappropriate.
The push for solemn observance does not seem so strange when you consider that around half of the German population still identifies as Christian. Indeed, a 2017 YouGov poll found that a slim majority of respondents indicated they thought the Good Friday dancing ban was a good thing. A full 62 percent of those aged 60 or older were actually against lifting the ban.
Nonetheless, year after year the public debates over the Tanzverbot continue to resurface, with politicians and prominent personalities alike calling for secularism to be respected just as much as religious customs. The Pirate Party continues to attempt to overturn the ban and most years stages protests - including public dances, events and film screenings - across the country.
What else is banned?
It’s not just dancing that gets the no-no. Plenty of other activities are also banned at Easter time. This includes circuses, sporting events and gambling but also public showings of films that are deemed to violate the “religious moral feeling of silent Christian holidays”.
The full “Public Holiday Index” of banned films, put together by the Ministry of Culture, contains some 700 titles, including horror films Friday the 13th and Scream, classics such as Bonnie and Clyde and Mad Max and even apparently innocuous children’s films like the animation Heidi and Mary Poppins.
Even radio broadcasts on Good Friday are required to “take into account the serious nature of the silent holidays” and adapt their programme accordingly.
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