5 weird and wonderful German Easter traditions
We all know the Germans like a good celebration, and Easter is no exception. Mind you, it’s not all Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs - there’s plenty of unusual Easter traditions to keep you occupied over the long weekend. From egg tapping to fire wheeling, here are five wonderful ways the Germans celebrate this most pastoral of public holidays.
1. Painted eggs (bunte Eier)
Dipping hard-boiled eggs in dye and then hand painting them is an age-old tradition in Germany: the oldest surviving decorated egg dates back to the 4th century! If you want to try your hand at a spot of egg-painting, you can find a plethora of kits containing dyes, egg-friendly paints and even decorative, shrinkable egg wrappers. The painted eggs can be used as decorations, given as presents, or even eaten in sandwiches! They are also equally good for playing a variety of games such as egg tapping or egg rolling.
2. Green Thursday (Gründonnerstag)
Maundy Thursday - the day Jesus ate the last supper with his disciples - is known as “Gründonnerstag” (Green Thursday) in Germany. Although the name comes from the old German word “greinen” (to mourn), nowadays many Germans stick to the day’s literal meaning. Therefore, tradition dictates that you eat something green - whether that be a Hessian savoury leek cake, or Grüne Soße, a regional speciality beloved in Frankfurt.
3. Easter egg tree (Ostereierbaum)
Not content with only one decorated tree per year, the Germans have also devised an Easter egg tree (Ostereierbaum), a bouquet of budding fruit tree boughs hung with dainty decorations such as hand-painted eggs. Traditionally, the tree is decorated on Good Friday, but it’s a beautiful thing to have in your home for the whole Easter period - especially when the buds on the branches begin to blossom!
4. Easter bonfires (Osterfeuer)
The night before Easter Sunday, a huge bonfire is lit in many parts of Germany. This custom has its origin in the pagan practice of lighting a fire to welcome spring and drive away the evil spirits of winter. In some parts of the country, and particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Easter bonfire tradition consists of a large wheel of wood that is set on fire and rolled down a slope to ensure a good harvest.
5. Easter breads (Osterbrot)
While many Germans will be eating lamb for their dinner on Easter Sunday, a traditional dish for breakfast for many families is a decorative, sweet bread. Sometimes made days in advance, the sweet dough is enriched with butter, milk, eggs, raisins and candied peel. Before being cooked, the dough is divided into three strands - representing the Holy Trinity - and plaited together. Give home baking a try or head down to your local baker for a pre-made loaf!
Which of these traditions will you be giving a try this Easter? Are they the same as in your home country? Let us know in the comments below!