Easter is one of the most popular holidays in Germany. After a cold and long German winter, Easter marks the eagerly anticipated season of spring. Many Americans might be surprised to find how many traditions come directly from German culture. Find out how to celebrate Easter in Germany as well as unusual German Easter traditions.
German Easter Traditions
You might not know that the custom of boiling and painting eggs, the symbols of new life, began in Germany.
The bright colors represent sunlight and growth. Like Christmas, there are many traditions celebrated around the world that root from Germany.
In the weeks prior to Easter, Germany gets ready for a new season. You will see spring flowers on display and many traditional Ostereierbaum (Easter trees). What is an Easter Tree, you might ask? Twigs and branches are displayed in the home, dripping with colorfully decorated eggs. Branches are on sale at every florist in the city, including stops on the U and S-Bahn, and only cost 1.50 - 5 euro depending on type of foliage.
If you are up for travel, visit the impressive Easter tree in Saalfeld.Thousands of eggs adorn a tree in the garden of Volker Kraft and an estimated 8,000 people come to gaze in wonder.
Eggs are a prominent feature in Easter celebrations. In Germany, they are still mouth-blown and delicately decorated. While eggs were traditionally dyed with natural materials like tea, dye kits are becoming more common.
You can also buy bright, pre-dyed eggs in the store.
Easter Chocolates and Bunnies
Next to the Easter egg, the rabbit is probably the most popular Easter icon. The Easter bunny, symbolizing fertility, was first mentioned in German writings in the 16th century. The bunny was then imported to America by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who called it Oschter Haws (Easter Hare).
Around 1800, the first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany.
The chocolate treat of Kinder Überraschung (Kinder Surprise) - actually from an Italian company - are also an integral German Easter tradition. Though not available in the States, you will find them everywhere in Germany.
Travel Tips for Easter in Germany
Germans are lucky to enjoy a very long Easter weekend. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays which means that shops, bank, and offices are closed. Note that trains and buses operate on a limited holiday schedule, and additional shops may be closed for the holiday.
School holidays also coincide with Easter holidays - usually two weeks around the Easter weekend. Expect loads of children and their families planning travel around this time. Keep in mind that hotels, museums, roadways and trains are likely to be crowded, and make your reservations early.
Celebrating Easter in Germany
If you spend the Easter weekend in Germany, memorize these two words: Frohe Ostern (pronunciation: FRO-Huh OS-tern) - Happy Easter! This is uttered everywhere from casual interactions at the grocery store to close greetings among friends and family.
The Easter weekend in Germany begins with a quiet Good Friday (Karfreitag).
Many families eat fish as their traditional Good Friday lunch before enjoying a weekend together.
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 like a sweet cake in the shape of a lamb.
Easter Sunday is the highlight of the holiday weekend. In the early morning, parents hide baskets filled with colored, hard boiled eggs, chocolate bunnies, sweets (like Kinder Surprise), and little presents for the kids. Many families attend an Easter service, followed by a traditional Easter lunch, lamb, potatoes, and fresh vegetables.
Dates for Easter in Germany
2017: April 14th - April 17th
2018: March 29 - April 2nd
2019: April 19th - April 22nd