Easter is one of the most popular holidays in the German speaking countries. After a cold and long German winter, Easter marks the eagerly anticipated season of Spring. It’s not only an important church holiday but also a big family holiday. ..And as for every family holiday, it’s celebrated with great German food, easter egg hunting and family gatherings.
German Easter Traditions
In the weeks prior to Easter, Germans get ready for the new season: You will see spring flowers on display and many traditional “Easter trees”, twigs and brushes dripping with colorfully decorated eggs.
Did you know that the tradition of boiling and painting eggs is the symbols of new life?
The bright colors represent sunlight and growth. This custom began in Germany centuries ago. Together with Easter eggs, the rabbit is certainly the most popular Easter icon- the Easter bunny. It symbolizes fertility and was first mentioned in German writings in the 16th century. Later the bunny was imported to America by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who called it “Oschter Haws” (“Easter Hare”). The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany around the 1800’s.
Germans enjoy a very long Easter weekend, starting with Good Friday, the great day Easter Sunday into Easter Monday. Those are all public holidays. This means that shops, banks, and offices are closed. Public transportation operates on a limited holiday schedule. German schools are closed for Easter holidays (usually two weeks around the Easter weekend), and many Germans travel to relatives and family members during those days.
Celebrating Easter in Germany
The Easter weekend in Germany begins with a quiet Good Friday (Karfreitag). Many families eat fish as their traditional Good Friday lunch.
Easter Saturday is a great day to visit an open-air Easter market, where you can browse for artistically handcrafted Easter eggs, carved Easter decoration, and local arts and crafts. Stop by a German bakery for a special Easter treat: a sweet cake in the shape of a lamb. On Saturday night, the regions in northern Germany will light Easter bonfires, chasing away the dark spirits of winter and welcoming Spring.
Easter Sunday is the great day of the long holiday weekend. Early in the morning, parents hide baskets filled with colorful, hard-boiled eggs, chocolate bunnies, sweets, and little gifts for the children. A lot of families attend an Easter service at church (one well-known is the Easter night worship service at the Cologne Cathedral), which is then followed by a traditional Easter lunch, lamb, potatoes, and fresh vegetables.