Easter in Germany

Easter Traditions – 2018
A German burning Easter wheel.
Image Credit: Frontier Museum.org

While Easter in Germany this year will be markedly different from what it is normally, Germans will still find a way to engage in some of their many Easter traditions. These traditions govern everything from food that should be eaten to Easter-day activities to pyrotechnic displays. Several of their traditions are similar to those in the US. For example, Germans traditionally eat lamb on Easter. They also often conduct Easter-Egg hunts and paint eggs. Egg painting is one of the oldest customs; in fact, a painted egg has been found that was made in the fourth century. Catholics in Germany also traditionally eat fish on Good Friday. Good Friday is also meant to be a quiet day where no church bells ring, no songs are sung, and people are not supposed to dance. One tradition that is less common in the US is the consumption of green food on Maundy Thursday. In German the day is called Gründonnerstag. Grün usually means green in German, hence the green food, but here it means to cry as this day represents the Last Supper. Other Easter traditions include the creation of Easter trees, Osterbaum, which are trees decorated with colored eggs. There are also two fire-related German Easter traditions. The first one is the creation of an Easter bonfire on the night before Sunday in order to signify the coming of Spring. A more extreme variation of this is the stuffing of straw into a wheel and rolling it down a hill. The wheel is supposed to bring a bountiful harvest if it rolls straight down the hill. These two rituals are more Pagan in nature, perhaps hearkening back to Germany’s more wild past. One last tradition, one more peaceful than bonfires and burning wheels, is going for a walk on Easter Sunday, which is a day off for most Germans. A walk allows one to enjoy nature after months of snow-enforced sheltering indoors. I think that everyone should take the opportunity to go on walks this Easter, especially given that the quarantine makes it so easy for us to shut ourselves in for days at a time. That being said, all must be careful to keep a safe distance from others on trails and paths.

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