The Easter holidays are around the corner. With it, we decorate trees, look for hidden painted eggs, put bunny schools on window ledges, and tell our kids about the Easter bunny. But what exactly are the German Easter traditions?
What is Easter, anyway?
Most Christian-dominated countries celebrate Easter. But like Christmas with Santa Claus, Easter is nowadaye more associated with a bunny. But why do we celebrate a holiday where a bunny hides colored eggs?
Originally, Easter was a heathen tradition to celebrate the start of spring. In German it is called Ostern. At a similar date, Christians celebrated the cruxification and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over time, both traditions mixed with each other and created the modern Easter tradition with its specific customs.
German festivities, sweets, and presents during Easter
So, what do we Germans Celebrate exactly? Easter still is influenced heavily by Christian religion and there are many festivities. Christians end Lent (traditional fasting) and celebrate the passion of Christ who, according to the Bible, died to free humanity of their sins. There are many regional customs around Easter.
Eat something green on thursday
Easter Starts at Gründonnerstag (lit. Green Thursday) – or Maundy Thursday in English – when we Germans will traditionally eat something green like spinache. The name comes from the middle ages and has nothing to do with the color green. The Middle High German word greinen meant to cry and sound similar to the German word grün for green.
Eat fish on friday – and don’t dance!
Typically, faithful Christians eat fish on friday. During Easter, this traditions is stressed on Good Friday. For Christians it is forbidden to eat meat, so many switch to fish because … well, the Bible has a loophole there.
Also, Good Friday is a so-called silent holiday (the last one in Germany). It’s forbidden to party, play loud music, and even church bells are not sounding.
Jesus Christ was the so-called “Lamb of God” who came to Earth to die for the sins of mankind. Lamb is a traditional dish on Easter and many lamb-themed foods are sold during that time from sweets to lamb-formed bread.
Set something on fire – a bonfire, preferrably
Some of the best-known traditions are bonfires called Easter Fires that are lit in the evening during the long Easter weekend. Whole villages gather and celebrate either the passion of Christ or the start of spring or a mix of both.
Take some family time
Friday and monday are national holidays in Germany. On Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday) grown-ups will hide colorful painted eggs for the kids. Also many families will gather to hollow out eggs, paint them, and decorate the trees in the garden.
Nowaday, Easter is focused on kids. You can get many sweets, including chocolate eggs, cream-filled chocolate eggs, jelly eggs, chocolate bunnies or chicklets in all sizes and so on. Also there is a great variety of trinkets and decoration like colored eggs to put on the trees in the garden, little bunny figurines or little chicklets to put on the shelf.
Some families will decorate their houses with so-called bunny schools. You can buy them and a wide variety of more toys in many stores in Germany.
Get some traditional German Easter presents with Mailbox Germany
We have some pointers for your late Easter shoppings:
- Holzspielzeug-Profi.de (Wood Toy Professional)
- Breitner-Kunstgewerbe.de (Breitner Art Shop)
Get some German sweets and foods, too
We already did an article on this topic, so check it out! Unfortunately, most of these shops do not deliver outside of Germany. So get yourself a treat, register your free account with us and get started. You shop it, we ship it.
Sources: Video via YouTube; “The City Cut with Mashed Potatoes & Cream Spinach” by Jun Seita is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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Since 2011, I work as Schrift-Architekt, a freelance consultant for social media and for some time now I am an avid German podcaster with #Onlinegeister, radio about internet culture, social media, and PR.