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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?

Despite being a very religious country with plenty of Christian holidays, including Easter Monday, Good Friday is not a day off in Austria. Here's why.

Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?
After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, Austrians will be able to celebrate easter in the traditional markets (Photo by Bianca Ackermann on Unsplash)

Austria has many holidays, especially Christian ones, from the Epiphany on January 6th to St. Stephan’s day on December 26th.

The country also has several non-religious holidays, but with more than 55 per cent of its population identifying as Catholics, the holidays also tend to follow the trend.

With one major exception.

Good Friday, a holiday in most Christian countries (or countries with a large share of a Christian population), is not an official holiday in Austria, even though Easter Monday is.

Why is that?

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is a Christian holiday observing the day of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. It is also known as Holy Friday. Several church services and traditions, including fasting, take place on the date.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How do Austria’s public holidays stack up against the rest of Europe?

The date is widely instituted as a legal holiday in Western countries, including Germany and parts of Switzerland.

It was also recognised as a holiday in Austria until 2019, but only for people who were members of the Protestant and Old Catholic Church.

If they had to work, they would be entitled to extra pay for holidays. However, those not members of these religious institutions weren’t entitled to the day off or the additional payment.

Why did the rule change?

In 2019, a Viennese man sued, demanding a holiday salary for his work on Good Friday. The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that having holidays only for a specific part of the population went against the European Union’s equal treatment directive.

Since then, workers in Austria have been allowed to take “personal holidays”, and the Good Friday stopped being a legal holiday in the country.

The “personal holiday” regulation allows workers to, once a year, unilaterally determine when they want to take a day off. The day will be taken from the 30 (or 36, depending on the case) holiday days they are entitled to per year.

READ ALSO: Easter holidays: What to expect if you are coming to Austria

The difference to typical vacation days is that the employee can decide when to take it – though they will need to inform the employer in writing and three months in advance.

Also, unlike a regular holiday application, the employer can’t refuse a personal holiday. They can ask the employee not to take it, but it will be the employee’s decision in the end. This goes even for work that is considered essential for operational reasons.

If the worker agrees to work on the day of the personal holiday after the employer requests, they will be entitled to holiday pay. However, the employee is no longer allowed another personal holiday in the current vacation year but won’t lose any vacation days either.

The new regulation allows people to take Good Friday off for religious reasons. Still, it doesn’t go against the equality directives as everyone is entitled to it.

READ ALSO: Austria wrong to limit Good Friday to certain faiths, EU court rules

So, no more holidays?

The issue has been debated ever since. In 2020, the Constitutional Court (VfGH) in Austria rejected the application of the Protestant and Old Catholic Churches, among others, to repeal the current regulation on Good Friday.

As celebrations arrive, churches in Austria bring the issue to light every year.

Several representatives of Churches are now asking for Good Friday to be a holiday for all Austrians. “It’s about lifting unequal treatment, so we demand a holiday for everyone”, protestant superintendent Matthias Geist told broadcaster ORF.

Despite political signals that this could be the case, it is already too late for any changes to take place for 2022. So, at least for now, Austrians will have to take a personal day if they want Good Friday off.

Useful vocabulary

Karfreitag – Good Friday
Ostermontag – Easter Montag
Aschermittwoch – Ash Wednesday
Ostern – Easter
Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

REVEALED: Austria’s most popular baby names in 2022

Austria's most popular baby names in 2022 might surprise readers.

REVEALED: Austria's most popular baby names in 2022

It’s that time of the year again when Statistics Austria releases the country’s most popular names for newborn babies, with Marie (for girls) and Paul (for boys) revealed as the winners.

Marie has taken the top spot for the second year in a row, while Paul has snatched the top spot for the first time since 2018, according to the latest figures.

Emilia and Jakob followed in second place for girls and boys respectively.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

Tobias Thomas, Director General of Statistics Austria, said: “He [Paul] was the top climber, moving up four places from last year. Lea and David on the other hand, each slipped three places compared to the previous year.”

The name Marie was chosen 975 times in Austria in 2021, and Paul was chosen 810 times.

Marie first entered the top ten list of most popular girl’s names in Austria in 2009 and has been climbing steadily ever since. Whereas Paul has been in the top ten since 2012, claimed the top spot in 2018 and appeared in second place in 2017 and 2019.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Statistics Austria compiles the results by analysing registered baby names in their original form, without special characters.

Here’s the full top 10 list of the most popular baby names for girls and boys in Austria in 2021.

Girls

  1. Marie
  2. Emilia
  3. Anna
  4. Emma
  5. Lena
  6. Mia
  7. Laura
  8. Valentina
  9. Hannah
  10. Lea

Boys

  1. Paul
  2. Jakob
  3. Maximilian
  4. Elias
  5. David
  6. Felix
  7. Leon
  8. Tobias
  9. Jonas
  10. Noah
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