Hi there! Thanks for dropping by and reading about how we celebrate Easter in Germany. Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Aside from Christmas and the Christmas markets, Easter is probably the next biggest holiday in Germany!
The History of Easter in Germany
First – where in the heck did Easter come from? Well, many historians, including the History Channel, feel that the holiday comes from the Pagan religious practice of worshiping Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility. They believe that the word Eostre turned to Ostern (Germany) and now Easter in English.
Why do we decorate or paint the eggs? Well, the tradition seems to come from the fact that the Catholic Church had forbidden eggs, along with meat, during Lent. So the eggs were a treat to eat after Easter and were decorated like little gifts. Many historians believe that this dates back to the 13th century.
How Do We Celebrate Easter in Germany?
So… how do we celebrate Easter here in Germany? Well, in ways similar to the USA, but also with some cool, other traditions that we have really learned to love!
Easter Markets in Germany
Easter markets, which are not so popular in the USA, are super common in Germany. These are similar in practice to the Christmas markets, but including all-things spring and Easter. You will find beautiful flowers, colorful Easter eggs, and lots and lots of chocolate candy! Among the colors and candy, you will also find beautifully handmade crafts, jewelry, and even toys!
Another great draw to these markets are hand-painting Easter eggs. Some of these are so elaborate and gorgeous – you will be mesmerized by the beauty! Most cities have Easter markets these days, so check your local square for the dates and times of the Easter market nearest you! Get your egg on!
Easter Decorations in Germany
I grew up decorating Easter eggs. My decorating was buy some dye, dump your eggs in the cup, and there you have it. However, after living in Europe, I have learned what true Easter eggs really look like.
Some eggs are amazingly hand-painted and ornately decorated! Needless to say, I am not good with anything artsy, but we have been given some really gorgeous hand-painted eggs. You can even buy them already decorated at the stores and markets!
There are some cool, German traditions that I never heard of but for sure will miss and need to incorporate when we come back to the USA. One of my absolute favorites is the Easter tree – or Ostereierbaum – as it is called in German.
What is an Easter tree? Well, just like it sounds – it is a tree that has Easter eggs hanging from it. These are seriously the cutest things you have ever seen. As Easter approaches, you will see eggs hanging in the front yard of almost every German house! Unlike the USA where we normally use hard-boiled eggs, these eggs are ornaments or just the shells with eggs removed and hand-painted. I just love it!
The most famous and biggest Ostereierbaum is in Saalfelder, Germany. This Ostereierbaum, at one time, had over 9,000 Easter eggs hanging from its apple tree limbs. Sadly, the family who started decorating in 1965 is no longer continuing the tradition. They have, however, given all the eggs away to the local town so they can continue this awesome tradition!
Easter Baskets in Germany
German children originally made nests, which evolved into baskets. The children make nests or baskets and leave them for the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) so she can leave them eggs. One thing you will find interesting is that not all German children are waiting for the Easter Bunny to lay her eggs; some are waiting for the Easter rooster, chick, fox, or stork, depending on what part of Germany they are from.
Easter Egg-Laying Rabbit
So, how did a bunny get to lay eggs? How did this happen? No one is 100% sure, but it seems like it also comes from Roman and old German Pagan religions. The rabbit was always a sign of fertility and the egg a sign of rebirth. According to historians, the egg-laying rabbit only comes out during the Spring Equinox, the one time a year when night and day are the same length, to create the all-powerful Easter Bunny.
Easter Egg Hunts
Interestingly enough, the reason we have Easter egg hunts comes from Germany as well. It seems that Martin Luther, the man who developed the Protestant religion and totally ousted the Catholic religion in much of Germany, was the first to have Easter egg hunts.
He believed the eggs to represent the Tomb of Jesus, and cracking the egg open was a symbol of rising to heaven. So, Martin Luther loved the idea of the hunts and had many to celebrate Easter. Finding the eggs was a secret treat, and cracking the egg was symbolic to releasing Jesus from His tomb. Thus, the reason for the Easter egg hunt.
Easter egg hunts in the USA come from the German immigrants who took their traditions to Pennsylvania in the 1700’s. Now it is widespread across the USA, although much more commercialized today. This has evolved into the Easter Bunny hiding eggs and leaving baskets full of candy and toys!
The biggest hunt in Germany is on the island of Pellworm, in the North Sea, where around 10,000 eggs are hidden among the straw and grass, and kids hunt for eggs in a giant Easter egg hunt!
Other Easter Traditions
Bonfires date back to the Pagan holidays of ushering in the spring and warding off the cold and gloom of winter. Light, similar to bunnies and eggs, is a sign of rebirth, and the fires have long been used as a sign of rebirth! Normally, you will see this bonfire tradition in the north of Germany. Many northern towns still have wonderful festivals surrounding Easter.
The decoration of fountains, or Osterbrunnenor, is the decoration of water wells. The tradition stems back to Northern Bavaria in the early 1900’s when the wells were decorated to show the importance of water or giving thanks to the water. Again, stemming from the Pagan religion.
The fountains and wells were decorated with hand-painted eggs and ribbons. After WWII and the building of infrastructures, the wells were not so important for survival. However, you can still find quite a few of the decorated fountains throughout Germany. In some towns, the Osterbrunnen has even become a tourist attraction; one fountain was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having 11,108 hand-painted eggs! Now that is a lot of eggs!
Easter egg museum
Last but not least, Germany actually has an Easter egg museum. Yes, they do! It is in Sonnenbühl, Germany, and has thousands of hand-painted Easter eggs. If you are in the area, stop by and check it out.
Well, there you have it – Easter in Germany! Thank you, Germany, for your Easter traditions and egg hunts! Do you have any Easter traditions? I would love to hear about them! Drop a comment below and let me know!