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Totensonntag in Germany: History and Importance of the Sunday of the Dead

Totensonntag (Sunday of the Dead), also known as Ewigkeitssonntag (Eternity Sunday) or Totenfest, is a Protestant religious holiday in Germany and Switzerland, celebrating the faithfully departed. It falls on the last Sunday before the First of the Sundays of Advent (for example always on or between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26), and it is the last Sunday of the ritualistic year in the German Evangelical Church and the Protestantse Kerk in The Netherlands. This year Sunday of the Dead falls on November 22, 2020.

As the National Day of Mourning, it is a “silent day” – this implies that in certain regions of Germany music or dance events are precluded. The Totensonntag is a so-called “silent day” (stiller Tag). In some German states, music or dance events are denied by law. Like on some other Sunday, offices, banks and schools are shut. Public transport for the most part runs on an ordinary Sunday schedule.

With the improvement of the liturgical year in the Middle Ages, readings on the last things were associated with the last Sundays of the liturgical year. While on the antepenultimate Sunday the attention is on death, the penultimate Sunday has the topic Last Judgment and the last Eternal Life.

Traditionally, the last Sunday of the liturgical year deals especially with the desire for Judgment Day. The Gospel is that of Parable of the Ten Virgins.

What is Totensonntag?

Totensonntag is a government holiday in Germany and the Netherlands. It’s the day of the year when Protestant Christians memorialize their dead. The date is particularly dedicated to family and community individuals who have passed in the last few years.

The German word, Totensonntag, translates to “Sunday of the Dead.” The name shows the way that the holiday always falls on the Sunday before Advent. You may likewise hear the holiday referred to as Ewigkeitssonntag, which signifies “Eternity Sunday,” or as Totenfest.

Totensonntag History

In 1816, Totensonntag became a regional religious holiday in the German Kingdom of Prussia. That year, the King of Prussia requested a Lutheran holiday for honoring the dead.

King Frederick William III initially wanted a memorable event the fighters lost in the War of Liberation, which was battled in 1813. The king likewise wanted an annual day when he could mourn his late spouse, the Queen of Prussia, who had died in 1810.
Progressively, Lutheran churches across the rest of Germany started to notice the holiday by respecting the dead.

Where you can celebrate Totensonntag?

Each locale of Germany perceives Totensonntag as an ensured government holiday. Indeed, every German state, other than Hamburg, denotes the holiday as a “silent day” by law.

This implies there are limitations on noise-making on the day of Totensonntag, as well as extra laws precluding dancing and playing music in public spaces.

However, there are still approaches to honor the dead on Totensonntag, both in Germany and in Protestant Christian communities the world over.

Germany
Even though laws are disallowing extreme merrymaking in the vast majority of Germany on Totensonntag, you can at present partake in Totensonntag customs across Germany in different ways.

In Germany, for instance, celebrants regularly visit the graves of friends and family to make the event of Totensonntag. Thusly, Totensonntag is like different holidays commemorating the dead, similar to Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico. Yet, not at all like Dia de Los Muertos, it’s standard to visit the cemetery during the day, instead of at night.

The United States and around the world

You can likewise observe Totensonntag in German and Protestant Christian communities around the world.

Totensonntag commonly falls around the same day as All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday dedicated to honoring the saints.

When Does Totensonntag Take Place?

Totensonntag, or Sunday of the Dead, happens on the last Sunday before Advent every year. This typically happens in November. Totensonntag 2020 falls on November 20.

Totensonntag is especially ensured in all German government states. The public holiday laws of all government states decide Totensonntag as a day of mourning and recognition or as a so-called “silent day”, for which special limitations apply.

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