German Customs through the Year
Germans have many celebrations other than Oktoberfest, although that seems to be the one that Americans like to focus on. Maybe because it involves a lot of beer drinking. However, the majority of German holidays originate in the Catholic church calendar and are therefore religion-based. This explains why the heavily Catholic states such as Bavaria tend to celebrate holidays that are of no significance in other German states. Here is a list of official German holidays (in German; G=legal holiday; *=celebrated only in some of the German federal states).
Although the title speaks of “German” customs, this page includes traditional customs as they are celebrated in various German-speaking countries throughout the year. Some customs are specific to a certain region or even town, while others are celebrated in all of the German-speaking countries, albeit with considerable differences in traditions. So do not be surprised if a description differs from something you may have heard or observed. That’s what makes customs so much fun–that different areas constantly develop their own twist on a given custom or holiday.
I will add more of these special German customs for various holidays as time permits, but for now, here are some of the big ones:
If you would like to find out more, check out the following pages:
http://www.derweg.org/feste/kultur/feste.html (in German; also has a lot information about other topics related to Germany)
http://kalender-365.de/feiertage.php (a calendar that shows the dates for all German holidays every year)
http://www.feiern-online.de/ (in German; all official holidays in Germany and their meaning, customs, and history)
If you are simply mystified by some German customs or items, you may find an explanation for their cultural significance at http://www.goethe.de/ins/gb/lp/prj/mtg/typ/str/en4848227.htm