Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Germans have been predominantly Christian since the early Middle Ages. A large German-Jewish minority was driven out or destroyed by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945; it is represented today by a returning community of perhaps 100,000. Approximately 56 percent of all Germans are Protestant and 37 percent Roman Catholic. Protestant populations are concentrated in the northern, central, and eastern regions, and Catholics predominate in the south and in the Rhineland. Since the eighteenth century many Germans have opted for secular alternatives to religion, including rationalism, romanticism, nationalism, socialism, and, most recently, consumerism or environmentalism.
Ceremonies. Germany's festive calendar includes a cycle of Christian holidays, which are observed especially but not exclusively by Catholics. In October, many towns celebrate harvest festivals that combine regional traditions with Modern tourist attractions. Carnival, or Fastnacht, is celebrated throughout Germany but especially in the Rhineland and the south. The carnival season begins on 11 November and ends on Mardi Gras with parades and "fools' assemblies" organized by local voluntary associations.
Arts. Germans have made major contributions to all of the typically Western fine arts, especially music. The folk traditions of Germany's various provinces declined with industrialization and urbanization, but some are still maintained as expressions of local patriotism or in connection with the promotion of tourism. A distinctively German cinema had its origins in the Weimar Republic and was revived in West Germany after the war. Postwar themes in German literature and cinema include especially the Nazi past, the Westernized or Socialist present, and resulting problems of German identity.
Medicine. Germans were among the leaders in the Development of both Western biomedicine and national health insurance. Biomedical health care in Germany is extensive and high-quality. Alongside biomedicine there is a strong German tradition of naturopathic medicine, including especially water cures at spas of various kinds. Water cures have been opposed by some members of the West German biomedical establishment but are regularly subsidized by statutory West German health insurance agencies.