Similar to many places around the world, Easter in Germany is heralded as a time to welcome spring and milder temperatures. After a long winter, it is a time to frolic outdoors and celebrate fresh Spring flowers and baby animals. It’s regarded as a warm time to spend with family and friends; it’s one of the favorite holidays of the entire year.
Many actually consider Germany the birthplace of famous Easter icons such as the Easter Tree and even the ever popular Easter Bunny. Since the 17th century, German children were told tales of “Osterhase”, the Easter Bunny who hid chocolates and eggs for them to find on Easter Sunday. Even today, Easter eggs are exchanged as presents during Easter celebrations all over the country and most of the Western world.
In Germany, Easter is almost as vibrantly celebrated as Christmas. Everyone takes part in decorating with colored eggs and rabbits both inside their homes and outside in their gardens. Preparations begin one or two weeks prior to Good Friday. Typically, the German decorations are kept on display as long as a week or two after Easter Sunday celebrations end.
Be sure to memorize “Frohe Ostern” pronounced FRO-Huh Os-tern or Happy Easter in German! This is especially helpful if you are going to be celebrating in Germany over the Easter holiday.
Popular German Easter Traditions
Traditional German Foods
Traditional German tortes and cakes are among the family favorite in many homes. The famous Black Forest Cake of course is always welcome, and Hazelnut torte is a decadent option. Many Easter desserts feature bunnies and eggs. A cake in the shape of a spring lamb is a sweet treat and makes a great conversation piece.
Popular German lunch foods include: deli meats, sausage, a variety of cheeses, different breads such as freshly baked giant pretzels, sauerkraut, filled eggs and potatoes.
Delicious German dinner foods include: Schnitzel or a thin boneless cut of meat (pork, chicken, lamb or beef) with breadcrumbs. Wiener Schnitzel is often made of veal. Holstein-style Schnitzel includes capers, anchovies and an egg. Hamburg-style Schnitzel, on the other hand, will be served with an egg on top. Lamb is a popular dinner choice, where dumplings are commonly served. Vegetables are often boiled or an accompanying salad.
Often preparations for Easter start to take place weeks before the actual event. This gives families time to spend together crafting and being creative. Many families prefer to celebrate with handmade decorations and ornaments. It is popular to decorate outdoor fountains and trees and make delicate centerpieces for your table.
Origin of the Chocolate Bunny
Besides the Easter egg, chocolate Easter bunnies are an equally popular iconic German Easter celebrations. Bunnies are often rampant in the spring and symbolize fertility. You may have heard the term “breeding like rabbits” in the past. The Easter bunny is reputed to have initially been mentioned during the 16th century in German writings. Pennsylvania Dutch settlers were responsible for importing the bunny to the United States. They referred to it as “Oschter Haws” which translates to “Easter Hare”.
It was in 1800 that the first edible bunnies were made for Easter in Germany. Thankfully, this unique tradition caught worldwide attention and is still enjoyed today.
Easter Church Services
Many Christian families attend Good Friday church services to acknowledge that this was the day Jesus was crucified, and Easter Sunday services to celebrate his resurrection. These services are held in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Afterwards, families typically get together to enjoy a large meal.
German Easter Egg Tree
This is a fun activity to participate in and absolutely breathtaking to behold. The eggs required for creating Easter meals are not cracked in half. Instead, they are carefully pierced with a needle and the contents of the egg are gently blown into bowl and saved for later.
The fragile empty eggs are then meticulously decorated and hung outside on trees and shrubs. Rainbow magic radiates from the Easter attire greenery, creating a cheery sight! This tradition takes place all through the week leading up to Easter. It has been observed by German families for decades. Imagine the brilliant landscape during this time of year!
Beautiful Easter Bouquets and Arrangements
The “Osterstrauß”, English: Easter Bouquet is another beautiful German Easter tradition. This is almost like a mini-version of the Easter Egg Tree. Typically, a small birch, forsythia or willow tree or several small twigs are decorated with hollowed out eggs. Once the eggs are dried out they are then brightly dyed and painted intricately by hand. The eggs are attached by spring colored ribbons to the twigs for an even more spectacular effect. Twigs may be hung from the ceiling in a mobile style or set up in vases as a centerpiece. They brighten any room and make a wonderful, heartfelt gift. Kids and adults both can get into the action.
Try making one as bright as possible and one with more muted and pastel tones! Have fun with the messy process and get in touch with your inner artist. For extra pizzazz, consider spray painting your branch in metallic gold or silver paint! Of course, you could use Easter colors or simple black and white paint as well to off-set your lovely eggs.
Weird & Wild Regional Easter Traditions
Traditional Easter Bonfires
Northern regions often light Easter bonfires on this night. This tradition has gone back for ages, symbolizing chasing away the cold, dark winter spirits and welcoming the new warmer season. It is a nice way for family and friends to enjoy a hot beverage and each other’s company by firelight. Stories are shared and Easter songs may be sung. Upcoming garden plans may be discussed and children are thrilled at the chance to be up past their regular bedtime.
Often, old Christmas trees are used to initiate the bonfire. This symbolizes saying goodbye to winter and embracing the spring season.
Das Osterrad – the Easter Wheel
This custom has followed tradition for more than a thousand years in the city of Lügde in Weserbergland. The city prides itself as being the “Osterradstadt.” This custom is practiced in a few regions within northern Germany. Hay is stuffed into a large wooden wheel. It is then lit on fire and rolled downhill at night time. A long wooden pole pulled is placed through the axle of the wheel to help it maintain its balance. If the wheel makes its way to the bottom of the hill fully intact, a good harvest is predicted.
Traditional Easter Games
Ostereierditschen: The goal is to break your opponent’s hard-boiled egg by tapping each other’s eggs with the tip of their egg. The person whose egg makes it to the end unbroken is declared the winner.
Osterhasseln: This game revolves around throwing a round piece of wood that resembles a Frisbee (der Hassel) at the opposite team. In order to win, the Hassel is required to land past the line that marks the opposing team’s space. The opposing team players are only allowed to use their legs to stop the Hassel.
This game is specific to Buldern, Westphalia. Here, players from the Western part of town play against players from the Eastern region. The losing team is responsible for gathering straw and wood for next Easter’s traditional bonfire.
More Handcrafted German Easter Decorations
One of the most popular crafts to do with the kids is making your very own German Easter Lantern. You simply cut flower petals out of thicker card stock paper or cardboard. Next, brightly decorate these petals, which resemble Easter eggs. When finished, you can hang it from the ceiling as a lamp. It makes for a gorgeous hanging centerpiece above the dining room table.
Some people prefer to hang various spring figurines with the lamp. Other families prefer to craft the petals into a basket shape and use it as a stable centerpiece as opposed to a hanging one. Be sure to take photographs of your family’s creations!
Among many family’s treasured favorites are clay bunnies, pyramids and wood-carved bunnies. Figurines including Bavarian Bunnies and the Chicken Wanderer are popular centerpieces. Baby chicks and floral bouquets made with tulips, daffodils and crocus flowers radiate spring. Music boxes sing notes of spring and candle holders add ambiance to any table setting and living room decoration. Additional decorations can be seen hanging in windows and make for enchanting walks throughout the neighborhood.
Public fountains are decked out with the spirit of spring. Greenery and garlands are intricately wrapped and the colorful eggs and flowers herald the warmer season.
Traditional German Paper Mâché Easter Eggs
Traditionally, Easter treats were carefully placed in handmade paper mâché candy containers. The delicate artistry and attention to detail that went into crafting every egg was phenomenal. Many German families keep this tradition alive by creating their own paper mâché eggs. Pictures and images can be put on via decoupage or perhaps drawn on by those so inclined.
There are many wonderful paper mâché egg designs made in Thuringia available to order online if you don’t have the time to make these from scratch. Common themes include: floral patterns, delightful Vintage Victorian style images, polka dots and metallic finish combinations, roosters and chicks, bunnies and animals, Peter Rabbit and friends, pastel flowers, lambs and sheep. Spring animal silhouettes are another popular way to decorate these intricate eggs. They are available in petite, small, medium and large sizes.
Colored Easter Eggs
This can be done with hard boiled eggs that are intact or you can hollow them out ahead of time. When working with small children, hard boiled eggs are easier to handle. They are not quite as fragile as the hollowed out ones.
Decorating ideas are practically endless. Food coloring is a fun and colorful way to make the eggs bright. Artistic people may wish to use fine-tip markers and let their imaginations go free. Stickers are a more recent option and a fun way to get toddlers involved in the festivities. You can easily create a mosaic effect by gluing on pieces of colored tissue paper.
Decorating eggs with traditional wax and food coloring is another fun option. This method is more time consuming but the results are stunning. Patterns may be intricate with dots and wavy lines to more bold color blocking techniques. No two eggs are the same and it is fun and exciting to see what you will end up with. A great rainy spring day activity!
Easter Markets or Ostermärkte are traditionally set up in many towns. Here you can purchase flowers, Easter crafts, decorated chocolate eggs, yummy bunnies, spring ornaments and all things related to this special time of year. These items are extremely popular as many families add to their indoor and outdoor decorations each season. It is also a great place to meander through and become inspired. You may take many of the ideas home and see what you and your family can create together.
German Easter Timeline
“Gründonnerstag” is known as Holy Thursday. It is the day before Good Friday. This day is commonly celebrated by eating green foods including soups that have parsley, leeks and spinach. Green is the color for new growth, new grass and leaves. It is also the symbol for health and vitality.
“Karfreitag” translates to Good Friday. The typical meal for this day is often some kind of fish. Good Friday is recognized by Christians around the world as the day that Jesus died. No other meat than fish is consumed on this day as fish became the symbol of Jesus Christ.
This is a fun day of preparation for families. This day is spent together baking an Easter Bunny or Easter Lamb cake. Final meal preparations are planned and many kids spend the day putting the final touches on their Easter eggs. This is a relaxing or super busy day, depending on how much preparation has been completed ahead of time. The big Easter egg hunt is only one day away and children and adults alike are excited.
This is a wonderful day, Germans take part in an outdoor Easter market. Here you can peruse local artisans and discover delicately handcrafted Easter eggs, crafts, carved Easter decorations and handmade figurines.
The traditional meal on Easter or “Ostern” is often roasted lamb, served with potatoes and asparagus. Some families enjoy other meat dishes. Ham, goose or duck may be on the menu. Potato dumplings and beef roulades are commonly prepared. Carrots and spring peas make healthy and colorful side dishes.
Children wake up on Easter morning and are thrilled that the beloved Easter Bunny has been to visit! Eggs are often hidden inside of the house or outside in the yard. It is a day to celebrate, being with family and relatives. Delicious food and fun with cousins and friends is a gift in itself. Some families opt to add a few presents into the mix; providing a chance to receive something special that is not candy or chocolate. A new snuggly stuffed animal or a fancy spring outfit or new shoes make for lasting gifts.
Easter Dates to Consider While Travelling In Germany
If you are going to be travelling to Germany in the Spring, it is important to take the holiday into consideration before you go. Note that Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. Therefore, offices, banks, shops and many restaurants are closed. Buses and trains operate follow a limited holiday schedule at this time.
Children typically receive 2 weeks around Easter off from school. It is common for German families to enjoy family vacation at this time. If you will be travelling in Germany during this holiday, keep in mind that hotels, trains, museums and restaurants may be more crowded than usual or even closed. It is wise to make reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment.