Easter in Germany is a special time for families. You will be able to embrace plenty of traditions from Good Friday to Easter Monday that will occupy your little ones and ensure quality family time.
Religiously, Easter is the oldest festival of the Christian Church and celebrates the resurrection of Christ and it’s also a great time for fun activities with the kids and eating a lot of chocolate eggs brought by fluffy bunnies. Say what now? Regardless, and confusing as this imagery is, Easter is embraced by many people as around the world, as a time for family. So, let’s see what fun Easter traditions in Germany you can also partake in, at this special time of year.
It’s all about the eggs.
Painting eggs for Easter has been a tradition in many countries, but it’s fair to say the Germans love colouring their eggs, and if you don’t have time to do it yourself, you can always buy pre-boiled and coloured eggs at the supermarket. But painting your own eggs is actually a very German custom. Historically, painted eggs have been around since the fourth century AD in the Roman-Germanic period.
If you’re colouring your own hard-boiled eggs (and many colouring kits can be bought from the supermarket or DM/Rossman stores), a great game to play is Ostereiertitschen or Eierklopfen, which means Easter Egg Tapping. Two players hold their hard-boiled (and painted) eggs in one hand and try to crack the other person’s egg as much as possible by tapping it, but with as little cracking as possible to their own. The egg that comes away with the least amount of damage, wins! Then, of course, you go ahead and peel and eat that egg.
If you are painting hollow eggs, a whole new world of easter decorations opens up to you by decorating an Easter Tree. You’ll see these Ostereierbaum trees all over Germany, in shops, on people’s front lawns, even on the trees that line the streets. Traditionally, one egg, (or ornament in some cases) per day is added to a tree for the 40 days of Lent. Arrange some branches in a vase and it becomes an Osterstrauss, and you can also do the same thing on a smaller scale with an Osterkranz, an Easter wreath, where the eggs hang from a wreath of twigs.
Egg hunt / Ostereiersuche
Eggs hunt are practiced all over the world, but the original idea actually came from Germany. There are many different theories as to how exactly the Osterhase, Easter hare, came to deliver eater eggs. There was an Easter goddess names Ostaria, farmers paying landowners in the period with eggs and dead field hares, and even that the bunny has a connection to the theme of resurrection and eternal life. Either way, the bunny rabbit is now synonymous with Easter tradition.
In the olden days, there were foxes, crane and stalks doing all the heavy delivery along with the bunny, but by the time the end of World War Two, the rabbit was here to stay and mainstream advertising came into play securing the bunny as the leader of egg delivery over Lent.
As Lent draws to a close, Easter Sunday brings around another German tradition: the bonfire. Used as a symbol to celebrate the introduction of spring and to wipe away the evil spirits of winter, religiously it is the day of the resurrection of Christ.
These bonfires are built with unused wood or even old leftover and drying Christmas trees, but some regions, like North Rhine-Westphalia, the bonfire is on a larger, more moveable scale. This traditional consists of stuffing straw on a large wooden wheel; setting it on fire and rolling it down the hill. If the wheel runs straight, it is said to be a sign of a good harvest to come.
Easter Foods For Thought
Depending on where you are in Germany, the doughnut has a different name: Berliner, Krapfen, Fasnacht, or Pfannkuchen, it all means doughnut in the end! In times gone by doughnuts were made on Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday), so that all the lard, sugar, fat and butter that was in the pantry was used up before the fasting of Lent began. These days, this humble doughnut is available in all bakeries in town and I doubt there is a limit if fat and sugars in the pantry by the time the period ends.
Maundy Thursday can also be called Green Thursday, or Gründonnerstag. This relates back to the pre-Christian tradition of eating green herbs and leaves at the beginning of spring. It’s also written that Maundy Thursday is the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus ate with his disciples before he was crucified.
Frankfurt has a green sauce, Central Germany has a famous green cake, and there’s even a deliciously sounding green herb soup! You’ll find green wherever you go so don’t be afraid to embrace it.
Bread, brioche and cake: Easter is a time for baking! These braided sweet breads, strewn with raisins and candied fruit peel, make a wonderful centrepiece for the feast table and are enjoyed by all ages. You’ll even find bread formed into the shape of lambs, as the lamb is a symbol of Jesus Christ: he was the sacrificial ‘lamb of God’ after all.
Lamb is often on the menu for Easter around Berlin, as well as fish. Although, fish is traditionally only eaten on Good Friday, or Karfreitag, the day Jesus was crucified, so, no meat for you until Easter Sunday!
The last, simple, and most pleasurable German tradition over Easter is to get outside. Time off from work means quality time in nature. Many families go for a walk on Easter Monday, Ostermontag, so be sure to give them a nod when you are out and about enjoying the fresh crisp air of the beginning of Spring!
For a list of what’s on in Berlin over the Easter weekend head to Visit Berlin to find a list of bonfires, markets and concerts to enjoy!
Happy Easter from the Archer Relocation Team!
Contributed by Charmaine.
Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, and along with her husband, is the founder and content manager of the online travel guide My Guide Berlin.