Easter in Germany is a celebratory time. For the religious, this is a time for family with well-attended Sunday services. For the children, Osterei (Easter eggs) will be decorated, Oster Deco (Easter decorations) are hung, and loads of chocolate are consumed.
Easter also means a long weekend as Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Germany. German school holidays are usually around this time (about two weeks) meaning many people in Germany take this time to travel. 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 exult in spring. Flowers are in bloom and people are on vacation.
If you prefer to eschew bunny rabbits for something a bit more interesting, 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 places in Germany.
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Germans take Easter decorating seriously (as they do so many things). Proper Osterei are hand-blown and carefully decorated with waxes and paints. Pre-dyed eggs are also available at many grocery stores - although I don't know why you wouldn't want to do it yourself.
Once you have the eggs, you 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! In 2016, the Kraft family donated their collection and an Easter tree on Blankenburger Straße in Saalfeld maintains the beloved attraction.
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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.
The six hour epic play is performed every ten years for a seven days-a-week run from May to October. If you want to see some village people perform, you will have to wait until the next performance in 2020.
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Light an Easter Bonfire
Wondering what to do with those pussy willows from your home-made Ostereierbaum? 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. In some areas, private fires are allowed while other cities only allow for one, supervised public event.
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Watch for Easter Fountains
Osterbrunnen (Easter fountains) are another colorful sign that Easter is happening. Depending on when Easter falls, you will notice these decorations going up from early April until a couple of weeks after Easter.
Most popular in more Catholic Southern Germany, the many fountains that dot public squares are decorated by local clubs with arches of evergreen and colorful 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.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Located near Stuttgart in Sonnenbühl, this unusual 2-story museum covers all things egg. For over 20 years this site has showcased egg holders, Osterei as a work of art, and different animals eggs decorated in the holiday style.