As an American couple without children in Germany, my husband and I didn't notice any difference in how Father's Day was celebrated until a few years ago. Occasionally you see a group of wild men traveling by beer bike or being rowdy in Berlin bars, but I just figured that was the usual stag party rolling through the city. It wasn't until we heard someone mention Männertag ("Men's Day") that we connected these raucous events with a holiday.
Father's day in Germany is the chance for men to act like boys, beer to be drunk by the Maß (liter) and for responsibility to take a vacation.
When is Father's Day in Germany?
Germany's Vatertag (also known as Männertag or Herrentag) coincides with Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt) and is held on a Thursday in May. It is a national holiday around the country and the Friday following is usually a day off, making for one drunken day out and three days to recover, otherwise known as a four-day weekend.
Origins of Germany's Father's Day
The holiday has noble beginnings in the Middle Ages as a religious ceremony honoring Gott, den Vater (God, the father). Towards the 1700s the day transformed into Vatertag, a family day honoring fathers. Eventually, it fell out of popularity, but found a comeback in the 19th century as Männertag, a "boys' day out" or by its more gentle euphemism of "gentlemen parties".
How to Celebrate Männertag in Germany
While celebrations are strictly men only, it is open to any male with Männlichkeitswahn (machismo) and a desire to indulge in their caveman side.
- Pub tour (Männerrunde)
- Indulge in the drinks, eats, and atmosphere of Germany's many biergartens
- Bike tour with a Bollerwagen (wagon) of booze or by beer bike
- Reserve spots in a beer hall for your group to drink and sing your way through the day
- Gather in a park with games like Boules, a grill and crates of beer, schnaps and mixers
Safety on Männertag
Whatever the day brings, alcohol is likely to be involved. Männertag's reputation as a Sauftag ("drinking day") has made it unpopular amongst some segments of the public and - understandably - with the Polizei (police).
Some cities have tried to curb the mayhem by imposing public drinking bans, but these measures have been struck down by the courts. In Rostock, police got experimental trying to exchange alcoholic beverages for non-alcoholic with limited success.
It appears that there is little chance of curbing the behavior officially, so wherever the day takes you - it is your responsibility. Abide by all laws and regulations and be respectful of the authorities. Männertag is only one day a year; you don't want to pay for it the other 364.