Article 4 of the German Constitution guarantees freedom of belief. Any- one can freely have a religion, join a religious community, change or leave it, or decide to be non-denominational. The State must be neutral and tolerant of all religious and philosophical communities.

In Germany, there is no state religion; this means that State and reli- gious and philosophical communities may not enter into an institutional association with one another. However, collaboration between the State and religious communities is possible and religious communities are in- vited to comment on social matters, take part in committees and forums, and are consulted for advice.

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In state schools, religious education is basically compulsory for members of the respective religious community; however, parents can opt out of religious education for their children. Non-denominational teaching of ethics is usual for students who do not take part in religious education. State schools may also provide education for students in ethical matters.

The largest churches in Germany are the Catholic and Protestant churches. They each account for around 30% of the population, with a different regional distribution. In Southern Germany, the Catholic church has a higher percentage; whereas in the north it is the Protestant church.

Islam, in its various forms, is increasingly gaining in importance due to immigration into Germany; approximately 4% of the population is Muslim. Just 2% of the population belongs to various other religions represented in Germany, and around 34% is non-denominational.

There is no strict division between church and State. The state reve- nue authorities collect church taxes that the Protestant and Catholic churches, the Jewish communities and a few small religious communi- ties raise from their members. There are also a large number of statutory holidays in Germany based on Christian traditions.

New Year : 1 January
Good Friday : Friday before Easter
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday : End of March, beginning of April
Labour Day : 1 May
Ascension Day : Thursday, 10 days before Whitsun In June
Whit Sunday and Whit Monday in June
German Unity Day 3 October
Christmas Eve : 24 December (afternoon onwards) 25 and 26 December
Christmas Day and Boxing Day New Year’s Eve : 31 December (afternoon onwards).

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Added to these there are holidays that only apply in certain federal states.