Tuesday, October 3, 2023

German Unity Day 2023 Celebration at the German Embassy in Washington DC, USA

This year, after a gap, due to covid and other factors, Annette and I were able to participate in the German Unity Day 2023 Celebration at the Residence of the German Ambassador to the United States of America. 

Before retiring, I used to be invited as a staff member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Now, after retiring from the IMF, I am on the guest list of the Embassy as Vice-president of the German Wine Sociery (Washington DC Chapter).

Same procedure as every year: You start in the residence of the Ambassador and move down to the "Bayrischer Biergarten" where the evening ends with good music and Bavarian beer. The party ended at 23:00.

We were joined at our table by Gudrun Engel, the Head of the ARD German TV in Washington DC. 

"Wein-Oktoberfest" of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) at the German Embassy in Washington DC, USA 
Last time we were at the embassy was about 4 weeks ago, at a much more intimite event, the Oktober Weinfest of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter), which took place on the evening of Friday, September 15, 2023,  at the Embassy House of the German Embassy in Washington, D.C.. At the Oktober Weinfest, there were 60 particiapants, at the German Unitiy Day 2023 Celebrations there were thousands.

Pictures: "Wein-Oktoberfest" of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) at the German Embassy in Washington DC, USA

German Unity Day - Tag der Deutschen Einheit – October 3

German Unity Day, on October 3rd, is the German national holiday, a sort of German Fourth of July. Both the observance date and the holiday are recent. The third day of October has only been a national holiday since 1990. Why this date?

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German unification in 1990 (known in German as die Wende, the “turning point”), few West Germans even knew the date of their nation’s founding (23 May 1949). It was never celebrated as an official holiday.

East Germany’s national day was October 7 (Tag der Republik), commemorating the founding of the socialist German Democratic Republic in 1949. In West Germany after 1954, the date of June 17 was observed as a national holiday (see below), but it was never anything like July 4th in the US. Since the Nazi era, nationalism and overt patriotism were frowned on by most Germans. Flag-waving was only seen at soccer matches and neo-Nazi gatherings.

The selection of the date for united Germany’s new national day was subject to concerns about events related to Hitler’s rule and Nazi crimes against humanity. Even the day on which the Wall opened in 1989 (November 9) coincided with the date of the infamous Kristallnacht (“night of broken glass”) anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938. Were it not for this unfortunate historical coincidence, November 9 probably would have become the German national holiday.

It would have been a much more appropriate date than the day the German reunification treaty took effect, which is what happened. (By the way, the American Declaration of Independence was approved on July 2, 1776, not on July 4th. The fourth was simply the date at the top of the document, and the date it was sent to the printer. The Declaration was not actually signed until August 2.)

Only One Nationwide Holiday

German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) is the only federal, nationwide holiday in Germany! All other bank holidays in Germany are determined by the states (Bundesländer), even if some of them are observed nationwide by all the states. German Unity Day is the only holiday mandated by federal law.

Einigungsvertrag (German Unity Treaty)

The 1990 treaty that officially unified East and West Germany and made Berlin a new Bundesland (state) and the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany was signed on August 31 and went into effect on September 29, 1990. The treaty designated October 3 as the day on which the German Democratic Republic officially would become part of the Federal Republic of Germany and subject to that nation’s constitution (Grundgesetz), and that is why the third day of October is now the German national holiday.


Although you will see German flags flying at the Reichstag building in Berlin and in other public locations, private flags and public fireworks are not a big part of the October 3 celebration. Most people enjoy the day off and spend time with friends and family. Politicians make speeches and there are special TV broadcasts about German history. In Berlin there are usually open-air concerts or other festivities near the Brandenburg Gate.

A unique feature of German Unity Day is an observance in the capital city of one of Germany’s 16 states. Each year the state that is presiding over the Bundesrat (upper house) hosts the celebration, which includes a Bürgerfest (citizens festival).

Key Dates in German History

1871 | Following the establishment of the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) there was no official national holiday, but Sedantag (commemorating a significant victory at the French town of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War on 2 September 1870) was traditionally observed as the Prussian national day.

9 November 1918 | Proclamation of the Weimar Republic following WWI; the constitution was approved on 31 July 1919. The national day was 11 August, the date when President Friedrich Edert signed the Weimar constitution in 1919.

9 November 1938 | Kristallnacht (“night of broken glass”), a nationwide anti-Jewish pogrom conducted by the Nazis in 1938.

17 June 1953 | East German workers’ revolt; the uprising was crushed by the Soviets. In 1954, the date became a West German holiday known as “Tag der deutschen Einheit”. In 1990 there were two “German Unity” days: 17 June and 3 October.

31 August 1990 | The German Unity Treaty (Einigungsvertrag) is approved. It makes October 3rd the official date of German reunification and the new German national day, now called “Tag der
Deutschen Einheit” or German Unity Day.

Source: https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/holidays-and-celebrations/german-unity-day/

German Unity Day 2023 Celebration at the German Embassy in Washington DC, USA 

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"Wein-Oktoberfest" of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) at the German Embassy in Washington DC, USA

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