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International Children's Day in Germany
June 1st has been International Children's Day since 1925, named by "The World Conference for the Well-being of Children", taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, as a day of celebration by and for the world's children. It was also to be a day when the deprivations and obstacles that many children in the world face in their lives, including their right to basic necessities and an education, would be highlighted and solutions sought.
After WWII Kindertag was commemorated mainly by Eastern Bloc countries including East Germany, the DDR. Although its origins were the result of a combination of two events centered around child welfare that took place on the same day, and neither had any connection with communism.
While "The World Conference for the Well being of Children", was being held in Switzerland, and 54 representatives from different countries were discussing the best ways to protect children, in San Francisco the Chinese consul-general had invited Chinese orphans to a highly successful and publicized celebration of the "Dragon Boat Festival", and it was after this coincidence that June 1st was chosen to be an official Children's Day.
A holiday filled with celebrations involving children in one way or another. School trips, entertainment, gift giving and songs, as well as raising money to help others, conferences and speeches dedicated both to publicizing problems and seeking ways of protecting the rights and welfare of all children.
Internationaler Kindertag was a big holiday in East Germany and eagerly anticipated by the children, but this was not all that took place on June 1st. Political overtones were added to the general festivities, just as they had been in 1930's Germany.
For example the symbolic destroying of western literature by pupils and "Young Pioneers", the East German youth organization.
Meanwhile from 1954 West Germany began to follow World Children's Day, Weltkindertag, which was associated with UNICEF, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund or United Nations Children's Fund.
Taking place on September 20th this had less to do with games, presents and songs and more with 'shining a light' on the lives of children worldwide, and seeking ways to protect their rights.
After German reunification in 1990, the date and name of the event that had been celebrated in the West was expected to be followed by the population in what had been the German Democratic Republic.
Not surprisingly the majority of the former East Germans had other ideas, and they have not unilaterally adapted to this 'new' day.
As in other Eastern European countries, a majority of parents in the eastern part of the country continue to celebrate Children’s Day on June 1 as they always have, including with communal 'Children's Day' celebrations.
So Germany's 'Children's Days' continue to be celebrated separately.
Although the once divided city of Berlin, for many years a small island in the middle of East Germany, deals with the situation diplomatically and makes a holiday of both days. A bonus for the city's children.
And there is a movement, Mehr Zeit fuer Kinder, More Time for Children, which believes as there are two traditional days in place then the whole of Germany should celebrate both of them.
This idea is backed enthusiastically by the toy industry of course.
Around the world there are many days dedicated to children, when young people, their lives and futures, are officially recognized, and events are held to provide them with help and support in some way. Increasing their chances in life. There remains no recognized universal "Children's Day" though, and in Germany, for the moment at least, June 1st continues to be celebrated as International Children's Day in one part of the country and arrives later in the year everywhere else.
Official DDR Poster for June 1, Kindertag: International Children's Day for Peace and Friendship, via ddr-kabinett-bochum - The end result of a paintball game in Berlin on 'Internationaler Kindertag', via s-bahn-berlin.de
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