Word of the Week: Brückentag

Nov 21, 2011

Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge Enlarge image Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge (© picture-alliance/Lonely Planet Images)

Thanksgiving is approaching … and, like every year, it falls on a Thursday. If Thanksgiving were an official holiday in Germany, a lot of German employees would most likely turn Friday into a Brückentag, which literally means a "Bridge Day".

Some people would suggest translating Brückentag as a long weekend or bridge day, although the concept behind the Brückentag is thereby not truly reflected. For Germans a long weekend is a weekend on which either Monday or Friday is a national holiday and therefore the two-day weekend is extended to a three-day weekend.

But the Brückentag does not refer to this at all, for the Brückentag starts out initially as a normal workday. It only becomes so popular for being in the right place at the right time, which is between a national holiday that falls either on a Tuesday or a Thursday and the weekend. 

The upshot: "take one, get four" is the mantra of holiday happy Germans who usually take an extra day off on a Monday or a Friday. So by only using one of their paid vacation days, these crafty employees end up getting a four-day holiday - a real long weekend. Who would not call that a great deal?

In the same vein, the French call this type of mini-break holiday faire le pont, or "doing the bridge." the term "bridging day" is, by contrast, not commonly known in the United States or in Great Britain.

Maybe it is simply because there is no need for it. In the United States most of the national holidays are fixed on Mondays, including Memorial Day (the last Monday in February), Labor Day, (the first Monday in September), and Columbus Day (the second Monday in October).

But a lot more official holidays in Germany are fixed on a precise date, including Ascension Day on August 15, Allhallows on November 1, and Labor Day on May 1. Lucky you if those holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday. 

Hence, and although the Brücke (bridge), was invented by the Byzantines a long time before Germany even existed, this particular constellation could be called a typical German construction. Some company owners have already drawn their own conclusions by closing their doors for a Brückentag, giving everybody an additional automatic day off, perhaps because they are all too aware that half of their employees will take the day off anyhow ...

So given that Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 24, 2011, you may be tempted to take a Brückentag on Friday.

© Germany.info

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