Repentance Day

Repentance Day is a holiday observed in Germany on the last Wednesday before the beginning of the Protestant liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent. This means that the holiday always falls somewhere between November 16th and 22nd annually.

In the German state of Saxony, this holiday is still a public holiday, but that is not the case in other German states. In Bavaria, it is observed as only a school holiday. The practice of fasting as repentance is thousands of years old, and some people fast on this holiday to atone for past sins.

The History of Repentance Day

Although the practice of repentance goes back before the Middle Ages, the first official day of prayer after the Protestant Reformation was scheduled by Emperor Charles V in 1532 in Strasbourg. Over the years, various feast days were used for the day of repentance, but it would not be until the 19th century that the origins of this holiday began to take shape.

In 1878, in Prussia and the rest of the German States of the Empire, there were almost 50 feast days celebrated on 24 different dates on which people could repent and atone for their sins. In 1893, Prussia ended this practice of having several repentance days for each of the organized Protestant churches in the territory.

Prussia fixed the last Wednesday before November 23rd—or 11 days before the first Sunday of Advent—as the fixed holiday of Repentance & Prayers. By 1934, it was a fixed, statutory holiday across the entire nation.

Observing Repentance Day

Different people observe this holiday in different ways. Some observe this holiday by engaging in quiet reflection or prayer, while others attend services on this day. For still others, it is a time to spend with friends and family. People also use the hashtags #RepentanceDay or #BußundBettag on their social media accounts.

Where is it celebrated?
Germany (Common local holidays) - Saxony
When is it?
This year (2024)
November 20 Wednesday
Next year (2025)
November 19 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
November 22 Wednesday