Father’s Day in Germany is proof that fathers in Germany have it figured out. Think about it… on Mother’s day, you get a card, a messy kitchen, and some flowers. In Germany, Fathers spend the day walking around in groups drinking while pulling a Bollerwagon full of beer, wine, schnapps and grill-able snacks! And! Since Father’s Day (Herrentag or Männertag) ALWAYS falls on a holiday… it turns into a 4 day weekend! (One day to get properly drunk, and 3 days to sleep it off!). But, how did this come about? How did Father’s Day in Germany turn into a wandering Drunken Fest? Believe it or not, it goes back to the Middle Ages….
When is Father’s Day in Germany
Father’s Day in Germany has fallen on Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt) since 370 AD. For those of you who missed that day in Sunday School… Ascension Day falls 40 days after Easter (the Thursday after the 5th Sunday), and is the day Jesus ascends into Heaven to sit with his Father. (This is what gives us the connection to Fathers… although, it’s kind of weak if you ask me).
In 2020 Ascension Day is May 21.
Father’s Day in Germany
But why the wagon? And why the Beer? Sources are a little fuzzy, but this is how I understand it. In the Middle Ages in some farming communities, Fathers were loaded up in a wagon and pulled to center of the Village on Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day). The Father who had the most children was awarded a Ham (for FATHERING children… note that the women don’t get Ham). Then there was bier and celebrating. Because it’s Germany.
An old fashioned German Bollerwagen
As time went by, the presentation of the ham faded away, but the Fathers celebrating with wagons and beer hung on.
You can still present your Father with a Ham, Click HERE–> Black Forest Ham
World War II reigned things in a bit, and by the 70’s and 80’s, weekly drinking parties were thought to be a bit old-fashioned. The focus of the drinking shifted to just Father’s Day. Oh, and Oktoberfest, and Schützenfest, and Fruhschoppen, and the odd Tuesday when nothing is on TV.
Father’s Day in Germany Today
These days German men get wildly creative on Father’s Day ie. Männertag or Herrentag. Wooden Wagons (known as Bollerwagen) are loaded up with provisions and decorated. Men wander in groups with their wagons drinking and celebrating. Some attach bike bells to walking sticks so you can hear them coming.
Some groups of men even travel in packs on bicycles! (It’s no wonder that Ascension day is also known as Accident Day in Germany. )
You will find men celebrating Herrentag in Germany in Parks, Restaurants and Bier Gartens. And if you are there… and you are a man… you can join in the fun… because according to Spiegel “men’s day, is open to any male who wants to demonstrate his loutish, caveman side.”
Photo copyright: eselsmann License: CC-BY-3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.de)
Happy Father’s Day!
A more Detailed Look at Vatertag and a Bollerwagentour in Germany