Its that time of year once again, now that spring is in the air and eggs in the shops that people start thinking about one of the biggest, brightest and tastiest festivals of the year – Easter! After my interest in other Easter traditions in both France and Spain, I have decided this year to write about Easter in Germany!
Preparations for Easter, like in many European countries, actually starts several weeks before the day itself. In the weeks leading up to Easter, every German town, city and village from Berlin to the tiniest village you will find Ostermarkt (literally Easter Market). At these markets, you can buy everything one might need for a huge, tasty and successful (read:sickening!) Easter! You can buy the traditional Easter Trees, which are small, usually flowering trees and bushes decorated with hollowed out and painted eggs. You can also get the usual chocolate eggs, but with a slight twist: in Germany, many Easter eggs contain varying degrees of alcohol! Not suitable for children, but definitely suitable for mum and dad!
Another German tradition, although it is only found in certain parts of Germany, is the Easter Fountain, or Osterbrunnen. Only occurring in Franconia, this tradition celebrates water as a giver of life during the spring time. German women save eggshells throughout the year and in the run up to Easter decorate them and string them into garlands which will decorate the primary fountains in the town in the week leading up to and the week after Easter. The fountains will also be crowned with wreathes and arches of evergreens decorated with roosters and rabbits. On the days of the Easter Market, it means the towns are a beautiful and colourful place! One town in Germany, Oberammergau, performs a special Passion Play detailing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in which around 1200 villagers perform, and people travel from all over Germany to see.
Interestingly enough, Germany lays claim to the origins of many of the Western Worlds iconic Easter symbols. For example, the first records of the Easter Bunny were found in Germany, dated from the 1600's. To the Germans, it symbolises fertility and is known as the Oschter Haws, which means Easter Hare. It is believed it was taken over to America by the first Pennsylvian and Dutch settlers. The first German edible Easter bunnies were created in the 1800's. They also look for Easter foxes, roosters and chicks as egg-bringers.
The Easter weekend in Germany is a huge event, and both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, and are celebrated massively. It is traditional for German Christians to eat fish on Good Friday, because the ancient Greek word for fish was Ichthys, and the first few letters of the words Iesus Christos Theos Yos Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour) spells out that word. Because of that, fish became holy food for Christians. They will also drape the crucifix with a cloth.
Well, slightly off on a tangent there! Easter Saturday is usually a comparatively lazy day, when people bake Easter Lamb and maybe a Bunny Cake. It is also the day during which parents of children paint coloured eggs for the Sunday's egg hunt! In some towns in Northern Germany, huge bonfires will be lit to chase away the darkness of the winter and welcome the sunny spring ahead, and often old Christmas trees will be burnt.
And now we are on to the big day itself! Most families in Germany will start off celebrating the day by going to a Church service in the morning, followed by a family breakfast or brunch! Easter breakfast is a joyous and yummy occasion, and the table will be decorated with special Easter decorations such as the Easter Tree, and Easter crockery. It will also be decorated with tonnes of yummy food! Easter breakfast consists of eggs (surprise surprise!), fruits and vegetables, bread, home-made cakes including my brothers favourite carrot cake, jam, cheese and the traditional and all time favourite wurst! There is a special dish only prepared at Easter time called Cruller,a twisted doughnut like cake that is covered in plain white icing and sugar. Like many places in Europe, Easter Sunday is a day for the family, both near and far. Families will join together to hunt for eggs in the yard and house, sing Easter songs, and tell stories. Children enjoy playing a game called Chocolate Kiss, where the aim of the game is to eat as many chocolate dipped marshmallows as possible. The winner is the one with the most marshmallows and the cleanest face! There is also the possibility, if you are small and cute enough,of gifts to be had!
The Germans carry their Easter celebration right over onto the Monday, the last day of their holiday. Despite being the last day of the holiday, it is just as festive as the one before as the whole family gathers together for a meal, usually the Easter Lamb prepared on the Saturday. Similar to Good Friday, it is a public holiday.
During Easter in Germany, the whole country is heaving with people. While it is a great time to visit Germany, be prepared for huge crowds of people! You will also be charged holiday fares for transport and hotels are likely to be fully booked, so make sure you book several months beforehand to make sure you are not stranded at the airport with nowhere to go! Regardless of the travel complications, I would love to spend one Easter in Germany, since it seems so incredible! If anyone reading this has any stories they want to share, I would love to hear them!
Now, I think I have covered every thing,and have only a few things left to say: Frohe Ostern, and thanks for reading!