Easter in Germany is a celebratory time. For the religious, this is a time for family with well-attended Sunday church services. For the children, osterei (Easter eggs) will be decorated, oster deco (Easter decorations) are hung, and loads of chocolates are consumed.
Easter also means a long weekend as Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Germany. German school holidays are for two weeks and center on Easter Sunday. This also means many people in Germany take this time to travel, and visitors flock to top German sites. While stores, government offices and banks are closed, know that hotels, museums, trains and roads will be extra crowded. Whatever you do to celebrate this holiday, Germany is ready to for spring. Flowers are in bloom, biergartens are open, and people are in vacation mode.
If you prefer to eschew bunny rabbits for something a bit more unusual, Germany still has you covered. Trees covered in eggs? An Easter bonfire? A museum dedicated to the egg? Check, check and check. Here are five unusual Easter traditions and ways to celebrate in Germany.
It is not just the Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree) the Germans have made famous.
People in Germany take Easter decorating seriously (as they do so many other things). Proper osterei are hand-blown and carefully decorated with waxes and paints. Pre-dyed eggs are also available at many grocery stores year-round (although I don't know why you wouldn't want to do it yourself!).
Once you have the eggs, hang them from your very own ostereierbaum (Easter egg tree), traditionally on Good Friday. This is usually a small decorative tree sold for the holiday, or you can hang the hand-blown eggs from some inexpensive pussy willows held in a vase.
If you have property with trees, you might go for a full-scale Ostereierbaum. The most famous is Saalfelder Ostereierbaum. Volker Kraft began the tradition nearly 50 years ago and his famous tree was adorned with more than 9,000 Easter eggs! However, in 2016 the Kraft family donated their collection. That said, there are many other colorful trees for the public to enjoy.
Look for Colorful Easter Fountains
Osterbrunnen (Easter fountains) are another sign that Easter is upon us. Depending on when Easter falls, you will notice these decorations from early April until a couple of weeks after Easter.
Popular in the more Catholic areas of Southern Germany, the many fountains on public squares are decorated by local clubs with arches of evergreen and pastel Easter eggs. Sometimes there is a theme with contributions from the community, like school groups who offer hand-painted eggs.
The most famous of these fountains is in Bieberbach, Bavaria. This fantastic fountain has won multiple Guinness World records for its decoration and the small village gets over 30,000 tourists around Easter. There are even German tours dedicated to visiting this and other fountains.
If you prefer your Easter celebrations a little more Christian-centric, Oberammergau is famous for its Passion Play. The depiction of Christ’s trial and death is re-enacted by the residents of this Bavarian village to thank God for sparing them from the plague in 1633.
Located near Stuttgart in Sonnenbühl, this unusual 2-story museum covers all things egg. For over 25 years this site has showcased egg holders, Osterei as a work of art, and different animal's eggs decorated in the holiday style.
Light up an Easter Bonfire
Wondering what to do with the ostereierbaum once Easter is here? Add it to the osterfeuer (Easter bonfire) around sunset on Holy Saturday. This cleansing fire is part of a pagan ritual made to welcome the spring.
Today's bonfires are subject to different city and state regulations so check if it is allowed in your area. Private fires may be allowed while other sites only allow for one, supervised public event.