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Relaxing Germany's Tanzverbot

Euna Lhee
April 3, 2015

A conservative state in Germany is considering relaxing its ban on dancing during the Easter holiday. Nightclubs and event organizers are in favor, but the debate isn't music to the ears of German churches.

A DJ spins music on turntables
Image: maxoidos/Fotolia

Silence is holy in Germany during the Easter holidays, but people could soon hear the soft echoes of dance music beckoning them to their local clubs - at least in one southwestern German state.

The regional government of Baden-Württemberg has said it is considering relaxing the dancing ban it imposes during the long weekend, saying the rules could be "less strict."

Changes to the holiday law - known here as a Tanzverbot - will be discussed in the coming weeks, a spokesperson for the state's Ministry of Internal Affairs told the dpa news agency, declining to provide more details.

Baden-Württemberg is one of Germany's more conservative states, home to the lush Black Forest and a higher-than-average Catholic population. A dancing ban is already in place there for most Sundays from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m.

During the Easter holidays, that prohibition takes effect on Maundy Thursday and lasts until 3 a.m. the next Monday.

A centuries-old rule

The Tanzverbot stems all the way back to the Middle Ages in Germany. Today, each one of Germany's 16 states has some form of the law. And although the specifics and degree to which it is enforced often varies, the basic premise is the same: During the Easter holidays, organized dancing in clubs and discos is verboten.

The debate usually resurfaces each year as Germany becomes more secular. According to the latest statistics, only 18 percent of Germans regularly attend mass and 40 percent don't formally belong to any church.

In past years, protestors have rallied around Good Friday, when political activists, students and atheists organize silent demonstrations - both in public and online.

This Good Friday, a protest is planned at the Stuttgart Palace Square with the theme, "Rocking out against the Tanzverbot," in which dancers will noiselessly bop to tunes on their headphones.

No music to the ears

If Baden-Württemberg makes changes to the dancing ban, it still needs to consult the church, which is less than thrilled about the ongoing debate.

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, council president of the Protestant church, told German radio station SWR 2 on Thursday he still didn't understand why having peace and quiet on Good Friday was still a question.

I don't understand why some people think it's an imposition "to think of the suffering of the world" on one of the days of the year, Bedford-Strohm said.

But club owners and restaurateurs don't see a conflict between people wanting to go out on a day meant for reflection, saying it shouldn't be a question of either-or.

"A meaningful liberalization isn't a campaign against the holiday law," Daniel Ohl, a spokesman for the restaurant association Dehoga, told dpa, adding the association will not challenge the notion that Good Friday is a day of quiet.