Day of Prayer and Repentance

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The Day of Repentance and Prayer in Germany is a holiday of the Protestant Church that goes back to times of need. In the course of history, days of penance and prayer have always been scheduled for current events. In the face of emergencies and dangers, the whole population was called to repentance and prayer. Since the end of the 19th century, a general day of penance and prayer has been celebrated on the Wednesday before Eternal Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year , i.e. eleven days before the first Sunday in Advent or on the Wednesday before November 23. In 2020 it falls on November 18th, in 2021 on November 17th.

In some regions of the German-speaking area, the word “penance” gives rise to incorrect associations. This day is not about fines in the sense of administrative law, but about penance in the religious sense, i.e. repentance for sins committed and a reflection on belief in God .

As a public holiday in Germany , it was abolished in 1994 except in Saxony .


In the Bible is the story of Jonah , who by God to Nineveh is sent to the city to announce their demise ( Jona 3.4 to 10  LUT ):

“There are still forty days before Nineveh will go under. Then the people of Nineveh believed in God and had a fast proclaimed and everyone, big and small, put on sackcloth to repent. And when this came before the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne and put off his purple, wrapped himself in the sack, and sat down in the ashes, and had a proclamation and saying in Nineveh as an order from the king and his rulers: Let it be neither humans nor cattle, neither cattle nor sheep eat, nor should they be grazed or made to drink water; and let them wrap themselves in sacks, men and beasts, and call to God with power. And turn everyone from his evil way and from the iniquity of his hands! Who knows? Perhaps God will make repentance and turn from his fierce anger that we should not perish. But when God saw what they were doing and how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had announced to them and did not do it. "

Common times of penance were already known in antiquity . Theologically they are justified on three levels. First as days when the Church interceded for the guilt of believers before God. Then, on the days of repentance, the church should exercise its watchdog function over the sins of time. And finally, days of repentance should serve the individual to test his conscience before God. In Rome, for example, there was the "feriae piaculares", which were supposed to avert hardship and the danger of war.

In the Middle Ages there were two types of days of penance: one was ordered by the authorities if necessary, the other, the quarter days, for example, resulted from the church order. Both were accepted and continued by the Evangelical Church. She celebrated the first day of prayer in Strasbourg in 1532 , by imperial order and because of the situation there, which was then interpreted as a " Turkish threat " .

National holiday

In the different territories of Germany there were different dates for days of penance and prayer. In 1878, a total of 47 days of penance could be counted on 24 different days in 28 German countries. A uniform day of penance and prayer on the Wednesday before the last Sunday of the church year was proposed in 1852 and 1878 by the Eisenach Conference of Protestant Church Leaders . In Prussia this proposal became law on March 12, 1893. But it was not until the “Reich Law on Holidays” of February 27, 1934 that the day of penance and prayer became a public holiday in the entire German Reich.

During the Second World War , the day of penance and prayer was put on a Sunday and thus abolished as a separate holiday - to mobilize all forces in the war. After the war it was reintroduced. In the GDR it was a non-working holiday until it was abolished in 1967 when the 5-day week was introduced. The West German states (with the exception of Bavaria) declared it a legal memorial and public holiday after the war . Bavaria followed suit in 1952, but the day was initially only legally recognized in regions with a predominantly Protestant population. From 1981 the Day of Repentance and Prayer was also a non-working holiday in predominantly Catholic regions of Bavaria and was now consistently celebrated throughout the Federal Republic.

After reunification , the Day of Repentance and Prayer was also adopted by all of the new federal states and was thus a national holiday from 1990 onwards. Since 1995 it has only been a public holiday in Saxony .


In 1994 it was decided to delete the day of repentance and prayer as a day off with effect from 1995, in order to compensate for the additional burden for employers through the contributions to the newly introduced long-term care insurance through overtime for employees . Critics of the abolition state in particular that the desired effect at the time - the secure financing of long-term care insurance -, unlike the abolition of the public holiday, was not of lasting effect and premium increases had to be made. A reintroduction was called for in the first few years after the abolition of various initiatives, for example an unsuccessful referendum in Schleswig-Holstein or a request from the then Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber . Later the topic was no longer discussed.

Regulations in general and in particular in Saxony, Bavaria and Berlin

Due to the holiday laws in most federal states, every employee is able to take time off on this day with reference to religious obligations. You don't have to take a vacation day, but you have to waive your wages.

Only in Saxony does it continue to exist as a public holiday to this day ; In return, employees in Saxony - but not their employers - pay a higher contribution to long-term care insurance than in the rest of Germany. However, this additional contribution of 0.5% of gross wages exceeds the costs of one working day. Therefore this regulation is a disadvantage for the Saxon employees. The Federal Constitutional Court considered this to be reasonable in the overall context of the introduction of long-term care insurance.

In Bavaria, there are no classes on the day of repentance and prayer in all schools. Teachers, on the other hand, have no lessons on the day of repentance and prayer, but not off duty. “At many schools in the Free State, this day is used to hold a so-called Pedagogical Day, which addresses current aspects of education and upbringing. However, teachers belonging to the denomination who so wish must be given the opportunity to stay away from the Pedagogical Day or similar events ”. In addition, most kindergartens in this state have closed, which means that many employees with children have to take vacation on that day. Local public transport follows the holiday schedule.

In Berlin there is no obligation for Protestant pupils to attend school.

Church holiday

Since the Day of Repentance and Prayer is still a church holiday, dance events are prohibited on this day in some federal states , and in some cases the operation of slot machines and amusement arcades is also prohibited .


The earliest possible date is November 16, the latest possible November 22. The information for the individual years can be found in the list of dates of movable public holidays in Germany .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Repentance and Prayer Day  - explanations of meanings, word origin, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Day of Repentance and Prayer: Public holiday in Saxony. Retrieved September 6, 2018 .
  2. ^ Day of Repentance and Prayer: Public holiday in Saxony. Retrieved September 6, 2018 .
  3. ↑ Long-term care insurance halves deficit . In: Tagesspiegel , March 10, 2006.
  4. Annett Otto: Referendum should put Bonn under pressure. Schleswig-Holstein votes on days of penance and prayer ; In: Berliner Zeitung . November 27, 1997.
  5. Flexible extra work for days of penance and prayer? Prime Minister Stoiber wants to compensate employer's share of long-term care insurance differently In: Berliner Zeitung . October 26, 1995.
  6. Law on Sundays and Holidays in the Free State of Saxony (SächsSFG), § 1. Ministry of Justice North Rhine-Westphalia, accessed on November 8, 2016 . § 1 Law on Sundays and Public Holidays in the Free State of Saxony, version of January 30, 2013, accessed on November 8, 2016.
  7. Federal Constitutional Court - 1 BvR 190/00: Reasons II. 3. b)
  8. Overview of the school-free days in Bavaria, accessed on November 8, 2016.
    (Bavarian) Law on the Protection of Sundays and Holidays , Article 4, Paragraph 2 i. d. F. dated May 9, 2006 (PDF, 21 kB)
  9. ^ School in Bavaria - The legal basis . Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Science and Art, accessed on November 8, 2016.
  10. ↑ School calendar. Senate Department for Education, Science and Research Berlin, archived from the original on November 5, 2011 ; accessed on October 31, 2019 .
  11. State Gambling Act BaWü
    Opening times for gambling halls ( memento of the original from November 19, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
    Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Public Holidays Act BaWü
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