With restrictions varying across Germany’s 16 states, the dancing ban, or “Tanzverbot,” effectively bars public dancing on the Christian holiday. In some states, the ban, which encompasses all manner of activities beyond dancing, lasts for a number of days.
Berlin is by far the most liberal state when it comes to upholding the “silent public holiday,” with the “Tanzverbot” only in place from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Good Friday.
In the southern, largely-Catholic state of Bavaria, however, the prohibition runs for 70 hours: from 2 a.m on Maundy Thursday until midnight on Holy Saturday. Penalties vary, but violators, namely event organizers or owners of an establishment, risk fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,590).
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
The most infamous of Germany’s banned Good Friday activities is dancing. Described by critics as the “thwarting of night owls,” the dancing ban or “Tanzverbot” has long been disputed. Rules vary across Germany’s 16 states, with Berlin being the most liberal: The ban is only in place there from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Good Friday. Penalties vary, but violators risk fines of up to 1,500 euros ($1,590).
Dating back to the Middle Ages, dance prohibitions in Germany existed long before public holidays were legally anchored in the German calendar.
But for Christians, it was always deemed inappropriate to dance or celebrate during Holy Week – the seven days leading up to Easter Sunday – particularly Good Friday, on which Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. For Catholics, the day is one of fasting and abstinence.
‘Thwarting of night owls’
While some protesters have dubbed the dancing ban “unconstitutional” and a “thwarting of night owls,” a YouGov poll published on Monday found that 52 percent of Germans have no qualms with the “Tanzverbot.”
So with more than half of Germany apparently happy to have a quiet night in on Good Friday, what’s all the song and dance about?
“The freedom-restricting rules of the ‘silent holidays’ are an idea from yesteryear,” spokesperson for Hanover’s Green Youth Party Timon Dzienus told DW. “We need a secular relationship between the state and the church rather than religiously-based interventions on individual freedom.”
In partnership with the youth parties of Hanover’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the city’s Green Youth Party is on Thursday – Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar – holding a dance demonstration against the ban.
Instead of holding the “silent public holiday” on a religious holiday, Dzienus is calling for an alternative with historical pertinence.
“Holocaust memorial day on January 27 or VE-Day on May 8 would be more fitting,” Dzienus told broadcaster DW.
But dancing isn’t the only activity to be prohibited on Germany’s “silent public holiday.” Car washes, jumble sales and moving house are also banned, as well as an extensive list of more than 700 films, all of which are deemed unacceptable works that violate the “religious moral feeling of silent Christian holidays.”