Bremen politicians against the most silent day

Bremen politicians against the most silent day

Dancing is forbidden on Good Friday © Jorg Loeffke (KNA)

A majority of Germans support the ban on dancing on Good Friday, according to a poll conducted last year. The states sometimes react differently – in Bremen it is particularly liberal. Criticism comes from the churches.

Good Friday is almost universally marked in red. In the overview table of an online encyclopedia on the so-called silent holidays, red stands for an all-day ban on dancing. It applies on the complete Good Friday in most states; in the rest at least at certain times. No other day is so quiet. However, peace has not yet returned to the debates.

"Relic from the last century", "outdated consideration", "slowing down night owls" – such words from critics are still relatively factual. Churches, on the other hand, insist on the importance of Good Friday. The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, once declared that he had no sympathy for the debate. Remembering suffering is "an important cultural asset" – even beyond religion.

Fast and abstinence day

On Good Friday, Christians commemorate Jesus' crucifixion. In the Protestant Church, it is considered one of the highest holidays. For Catholics he is a fast and abstinence day. Meanwhile, there have always been bans on dancing on certain days or periods of time.

General regulations of this kind prevailed in Germany at times also for political reasons, for example during the two world wars.

Today's regulations are a matter for the states. Several states relaxed their laws in recent years. Schleswig-Holstein shortened the ban on dancing: the ban no longer applies around the clock, but from 2.00 a.m. on Good Friday until 2 a.m.00 a.m. on Holy Saturday. Bavaria, which had also relaxed its holiday law in 2013, decided in 2014 that no circus performances are allowed on silent days, in this specific case on All Saints' Day.

The ban on dancing generally also applies to sporting events. Then last November, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the strict Bavarian protection of Good Friday unconstitutional.

The "Bund fur Geistesfreiheit" (BfG), which had been banned by the city from celebrating "Heidenspab" parties on Good Friday since 2007, had filed a lawsuit. A general ban would be disproportionate, the ruling said; there must also be opportunities for exceptions to the silence requirement. Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg regretted the decision.

Hesse is the state with the most silent holidays. On 15 days, including New Year's Day, there is a temporary ban on dancing there. Berlin, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein celebrate the fewest silent days. There Good Friday, Remembrance Day and Sunday of the Dead are protected – still.

Relaxation in Bremen

The regulation was relaxed the most in Bremen in 2013. After a petition, the citizenship decided to extend the ban on dancing on Good Friday to the time between 6.00 to 21.00 o'clock to limit, on the people's day of mourning and dead Sunday on 6.00 to 17.00 and lift it on all subsequent days. The new law also provided for a complete abolition of the ban on dancing in 2018. However, the citizenship took this back last year and left it at the transitional regulation. For this among other things the churches had made themselves strong.

With a new petition SPD politician Maurice Maschig now wants to push the complete abolition nevertheless. 200 supporters he currently has. "Whether reflection and rest are good for someone, or one would rather spend one's time in a different way, should be left to each person to decide for himself," the call goes.

Besides Good Friday, nationwide restrictions are in place only on Volkstrauertag – a state day of remembrance – and on Totensonntag (Sunday of the Dead).

For all other silent days, what has been demanded again and again for Good Friday has long been true: Regional peculiarities are taken into account. All Saints' Day, for example, is a silent day only in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

Fabian Wittreck, a legal scholar from Munster, expects more exceptions in the future. "The more religious diversity grows in society, the greater the need for exemptions – just as the willingness to grant them increases."

Many bishops and priests remember terror and wars, catastrophes and famine on Good Friday. The suffering of the world is the focus on this day. The imposition to abstain from dancing for 24 hours is comparatively small.

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