Every year on October 3rd, festive acts all over Germany celebrate the anniversary of the reunification of what was the German Democratic Republic (“DDR”) in the East and the Federal Republic of Germany (“BRD”) in the West. The German national holiday commemorates the joining of the DDR with the BRD that was decided on in August 1990 and concluded in October. With this happening, the federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and all of Berlin, the so-called “new federal states”, became part of the republic.
Why October 3rd? At first, November 9th was considered as the new national holiday as it marked the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As November 9th also was the day of the first major pogroms against Jews in 1938 though, another date had to be found. October 3rd 1990, one day after the foreign ministers’ conference at which the historic happening was enunciated, became the day of the reunification, as there was no time to waste: The German Democratic Republic was close to a financial and political collapse.
Today, the “new federal states” aren’t all that new anymore. The so-called “Ostalgie” (from ‘Osten’ = East and ‘Nostalgia’) that remembers affectionately East-German peculiarities such as the little figures on traffic lights, particular TV programs and foods reminds us, together with many clichés and one or the other joke about “Wessis” from West-Germany and “Ossis” from East-Germany, that once a border separated German citizens from German citizens.
Every year, the main festivities are held in another federal state capital, usually together with concerts and other celebrations. Since 1997, mosques will also open their doors to the public on October 3rd to symbolize an open Islam as part of the German society on the “Day of the Open Mosque”. In 2004, politicians were considering to shift German Unity Day to the first Sunday of October to reach additional tax income. This idea was cast aside soon though – to the great joy of all those who are given an additional day off each year!