Why Bavarians are busy hanging out bouquets on Mariä Himmelfahrt

You might not have the day off today, but many people across the country do. The Catholic celebration of Mariä Himmelfahrt is a lesser known yet rather floral public holiday in many parts of southern Germany.

Why Bavarians are busy hanging out bouquets on Mariä Himmelfahrt
Girls celebrating Mariä Himmelfahrt in Kochel am See, Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

What is Mariä Himmelfahrt?

Commonly celebrated on August 15th each year, Mariä Himmelfahrt is known in English as the Ascension of the Virgin Mary.

Catholics believe that heaven received the Virgin Mary’s body on this day, symbolizing human redemption. According to the Catholic faith, the Virgin Mary’s soul – as well as the souls of all human beings – lives on after her death.

Though introduced in the fifth century, the holiday has been celebrated since the seventh century. It has since come to be observed as a major feast day for Catholics.

Tuesday also marks the start of 30 Marian feast days, which are specific holy days recognized by Christians as significant for the celebration of events in the Virgin Mary’s life.

Women in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA.

Where is it celebrated?

Mariä Himmelfahrt is considered a public holiday in the state of Saarland and a large number of towns and cities in Bavaria – 1,704 out of Bavarian 2,056 municipalities, to be exact. These are municipalities where the majority of residents are Catholic.

If you live in Munich, Würzburg, or Augsburg, you probably kicked off your public holiday with a lie-in. But if you live in Nuremberg, you may have had to set you alarm clock this morning.

Five of the eight largest cities in Bavaria observe Mariä Himmelfahrt as a public holiday.

Some municipalities can actually lose or gain the public holiday depending on the area’s population of Catholics and whether this number increases or decreases. In 2014, for instance, as a result of the 2011 census, three Bavarian municipalities lost a public holiday whereas seven gained it.

But Germany isn’t the only country where the holiday is celebrated. It’s also observed in all of Austria, parts of Switzerland and according to Dom Radio, the radio station of the Cologne Cathedral, certain areas in France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Spain.

How is it celebrated?

More elaborately in particular places. In the Bavarian city of Kochel am See, an annual parade is held and a festival takes place where revellers are typically clad in traditional costumes.

People in traditional clothing playing musical instruments in Kochel am See, Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

In rural areas, candle liturgies are a common sight.

But what seems to be most popular in the celebration of the custom are the abundance of herbal and flower arrangements where dozens of various herbs and plants are gathered, bunched together and blessed.

Some Catholics believe flowers and herbs were found in place of the Virgin Mary’s body at the opening of her tomb. This may explain why during the holiday bouquets of herbs are often hung up in front of homes, meant to protect against misfortune and illness.


Al-Azhar university calls for Sweden boycott over Koran burning

The Sunni Muslim world's most prestigious educational institution, Al-Azhar in Egypt, has called for the boycott of Swedish and Dutch products after far-right activists destroyed Korans in those countries.

Al-Azhar university calls for Sweden boycott over Koran burning

Al-Azhar, in a statement issued on Wednesday, called on “Muslims to boycott Dutch and Swedish products”.

It also urged “an appropriate response from the governments of these two countries” which it charged were “protecting despicable and barbaric crimes in the name of ‘freedom of expression'”.

Swedish-Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan on Saturday set fire to a copy of the Muslim holy book in front of Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm, raising tensions as Sweden courts Ankara over its bid to join Nato.


The following day, Edwin Wagensveld, who heads the Dutch chapter of the German anti-Islam group Pegida, tore pages out of the Koran during a one-man protest outside parliament.

Images on social media also showed him walking on the torn pages of the holy book.

The desecration of the Koran sparked strong protests from Ankara and furious demonstrations in several capitals of the Muslim world including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned” the Koran burning, expressing “deep concern at the recurrence of such events and the recent Islamophobic escalation in a certain number of European countries”.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson condemned Paludan’s actions as “deeply disrespectful”, while the United States called it “repugnant”.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday said the burning was the work of “a provocateur” who “may have deliberately sought to put distance between two close partners of ours – Turkey and Sweden”.

On Tuesday, Turkey postponed Nato accession talks with Sweden and Finland, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Stockholm for allowing weekend protests that included the burning of the Koran.