With a two-week Fall vacation about to begin, I have the usual parental angst about whether the kids will drive us nuts and if we’ll suffer from too much togetherness. The Fall vacation is a regular part of the German school year schedule, along with a two-week Christmas vacation, a one week Winter vacation and a two-week Easter vacation. This means more time to spend with family and friends during the school year and in my opinion is worth the trade-off of a somewhat shorter summer vacation. The school year back home has always unfolded at such a frenetic pace and then suddenly summer arrives with a gaping space of 10 weeks to fill for kids who wake up each morning and want to know what we are doing today. Many parents I know have found it as challenging as I have to bridge the divide between the school year and summer vacation.
We will spend six days in Prague during the break and will have lots of time to catch up with our kids on how they are doing. We may go crazy, but I’m sure we’ll have some fun too.
Another facet of life in Germany that brings families together is the fact that almost everything is closed on Sundays. This practice is based on the Christian tradition of observing the sabbath as a day of rest and has caused much controversy in modern times. In December of last year Germany’s Constitutional Court overturned an effort by the City of Berlin to ease restrictions on Sunday shopping and ruled that Sunday should be kept as a day of rest. The influential (and conservative) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung hailed the ruling and proclaimed that “if the state does not use some of its regulatory power to give a dependable rhythm to at least one free day…….then the family faces the threat of being pulled further apart.”
As someone who leans pretty far to the left and is an ardent believer in the separation of church and state, I have to admit that I don’t mind giving up my economic freedom on Sundays to spend more time with my family. There are a few times a year when German stores are open on Sundays, but for the most part you can only shop till you drop six days a week. This forces us to get our errands done on Saturdays, which can be difficult, but we now enjoy a family outing almost every Sunday.