Easter is a major holiday in Germany as well as neighboring German-speaking countries. As the days are getting warmer and longer; one cannot help but realize yellow daffodils, crocuses and clay bunnies decorating households –even streets and shopping malls. Easter is not only an important religious holiday but also a family holiday and thus celebrated accordingly. It is mainly to commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. After a cold and long winter, Easter heralds the coming of much-anticipated spring. There is a range of Easter customs and traditions that have spread to other parts of the world as well. Read this post to learn more all about Easter in Germany!
Easter celebrations in Germany involve a lot of chocolate, an egg hunt, gatherings of family and friends, delicious meals and perhaps a trip to church. Here is some German vocabulary to learn before Easter!
Frohe Ostern- Happy Easter
der Osterhase- Easter Rabbit
das Osterei- Easter Egg
der Ostersonntag- Easter Sunday
die Osterglocke- (literally Easter Bell) Daffodil
Since we all know the Easter-related words now, we can explore German Easter traditions and important days to observe. The Easter Holiday is a four-day event. It begins on Good Friday ends on Easter Monday. Both Friday and Monday are National Holidays so all the shops, banks and post office are closed. The actual date for Easter Sunday is different every year. It falls on the First Sunday after the first Full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox. Since the lunar cycle and the calendar don’t match up, Easter moves around every year. This year Easter Sunday falls on the 1st of April.
Good Friday (Karfreitag)
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. According to the Church, this was the day Jesus was put to death on the cross. This day is usually spent with family. Church bells are generally silent on Good Friday.
Easter Saturday (Karsamstag or Ostersamstag)
For some people, Easter Saturday is considered a quiet day, a day of waiting. But one fun thing to do on this day might be to visit an Easter Market where you can find hand-crafted Ornaments for your Osterbaum (Easter Tree) or fun decorations for your home. It is also a tradition to lit bonfires to chase away the darkness of the winter.
Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag)
Some people go to church and after this, families and friends gather for a large meal of Lamb. Potatoes, vegetables, and fresh salads consist the meal. Dessert is often a Lamb shaped cake, fruit tart or flower or egg-shaped cookies. Of course, the night before Easter eggs, chocolates, and small presents for children are hidden sometimes in a basket, sometimes in a paper mache Egg for the egg hunt.
Easter Monday (Ostermontag)
Easter Monday is a day of remembrance or reflection. You may see candle-lit parades or walks early in the morning to remember the walk Jesus made to his crucifixion. If the weather allows, people usually want to spend the day outside. They walk, hike, picnic, and generally enjoy nature. Many communities hold Easter Egg races for children or play other games.
Other Symbols and Traditions
Germany’s first Easter Bunnies
It was German scientist Georg Franck von Franckenau who first wrote in 1682 about the tradition of a mythical Easter Bunny that hid eggs in the garden for children to find. The custom was being practiced in the central and southwestern German regions, including Alsace and Palatinate. The tradition stuck and became a common practice in some other countries too. The tradition of using eggs and bunnies as Easter symbols originates from paganism since they symbolize fertility, birth, and new beginnings.
Easter Tree (Osterbaum)
In Germany, people decorate live trees or bushes in their yard with colored eggs tied on with ribbon. Unlike Christmas trees, these trees are living, and don’t require a special stand or lights. The colored eggs add a festive atmosphere to neighborhoods and towns.
In parts of Germany, there was a tradition of drawing Easter Water for health and purification from wells. In Pomerania, Easter water meant life and fertility, and unmarried women would go to collect some before the sun came up… if she could sprinkle it onto the man she loved, there could be a wedding soon. Today, the custom of decorating the town’s water fountain or well has spread across Germany. Today, OsterWasser often refers to the Schnapps that is drunk with friends.
The spring traditions are, however, not all about eating, drinking and playing games. Another old German Easter custom is to give the house a thorough spring cleaning and get rid off the old dust which has gathered over the long winter months.
Is this your first Easter in Germany? What are some common traditions that are observed in your home country? Did we forget to include any German traditions here? Share with us! Frohe Ostern 🙂