2010 Marks 20 Years Of German Unity

Today, October 3rd, 2010, is a unique day in German history. October 3rd is honored as German Unity Day, Tag der Deutschen Einheit. This is the only nationally designated public holiday, and it commemorates the formal reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In other countries, national unity and independence days are massive holidays. In Germany, our Unity Day is a quieter affair. Berlin usually has some small celebrations, of course, as a part of its duty as our capital. A rotating list of regional capitals also take turns hosting annual celebrations.

Why no big deal over the holiday, you say? Some of the quietness comes from mixed emotions around unification. If this seems shocking to you — after all, who could really want to go back to the Berlin Wall? — remember that unification was a life-changing event for millions of people (me included).

If you lived in East Germany, the unification meant more opportunities for work and travel, but it also marked an end to the established ways of life. Citizens of West Germany rejoiced at the Wall coming down, but resented the monies that were spent on economic stimulus for East Germany and all the new competitors for open jobs. Both sides also associate unification with a new 5.5% solidarity tax (due in West Germany) which was levied to fund the economic development efforts in the East.

Still, I don’t want to give the impression that the majority would be wandering around complaining about the unification of Germany. Quite the opposite! Most people, unless they are deep into ostalgie, consider the German reunification to be a wonderful moment in German history (me included). We just don’t spend the holiday in loud celebrations. With the day off from work and shops closed, we use the day to spend time with family and friends.

This year, however, due to the 20th anniversary, the celebrations will be a tad louder. :-)

As a visitor in Germany on Unity Day, to see celebrations you will want to be in Berlin or in this year’s regional host, Bremen. Berlin’s festivities will be centered around the Brandenburg Gate and the Straße des 17. Juni with a parade, some live music, and numerous ceremonies here and there. In Bremen, there will be a city-wide festival or Bürgerfest, with ceremonial moments happening throughout the city.

If you stay in, note that the television program schedules are full of retrospectives, and many German media outlets are in a reflective mode for this 20th anniversary. Though it is a quieter event than in other parts of the world, Germany’s Unity Day is still being observed on many fronts. Plus, this year’s round of celebrations are going to be larger than most, so take the time to enjoy them! :-)

And of course, if you can’t make it this time, simply enjoy the quadlingual live stream television broadcast DW-TV over at DW World, my preferred TV program for when I’m not in my beloved home country.

—Marcus

 

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