Vatertag (father’s day) is a big deal in Germany. In America? Eh, not so much. Your average American dad gets a card his wife forced the kids to sign and maybe a tie. In Germany, things are a bit…different. I can’t say for sure if men get gifts here, but I do know one thing they get, and that’s shit-faced.
In Germany, Vatertag and Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) are combined. This year, they were both observed on May 10th. Ascension Day is a real holiday, so everyone coincidentally has the day off. German men celebrate Vatertag with each other, rather than with their families. They also participate even if they don’t have kids. Basically, it’s not so much Father’s Day as it is Bro Day.
Your typical Vatertag group starts drinking in the morning and doesn’t stop until well past Midnight. Traditionally, men cart around a huge case of beer and walk around drinking all day. We definitely saw a lot of that, but many of the groups we saw were just bar hopping. Interestingly, despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to cycle while intoxicated, we saw a few groups on bikes.
The best part (obviously) is seeing men bro-ing it up in coordinated outfits. Some men just wear their favorite football club jerseys together. Or, they all wear the same silly hat. Then there are the dedicated few who go all-out and wear costumes. Late the next day, we walked past a guy in a Hawaiian shirt, board shorts, straw hat, sunglasses and a lei. Was he doing the walk of shame back home from a particularly exciting Vatertag? Probably. It was more fun to pretend he’s just really into Margaritaville, though.
If it weren’t for the strict (and pointless) public drinking laws in the US, I’d say the German version of Father’s Day would be a fine import to the US. It’s just good, harmless fun; less about fatherhood and more about brotherhood. Sure, there are probably some men who get out of control; in our little city, for example, Vatertag is the one day of the year you can’t grill by the lake. I’ll leave you to guess (mostly because I don’t know) why that rule came about.
By now, you may be wondering if German Mother’s Day is celebrated in the same way. I know I was, anyway. I was hoping for roving bands of women, stumbling around the city while swilling rosé. Sadly, this isn’t the case; Mother’s Day here is just like it is in America. I will say, though, the gratitude is definitely more sincere. After all, Germany is a country with mandatory maternity leave. Do you really appreciate mothers if you can’t even give them time off to recover from having a baby? Probably not.