Easter in Germany is a time of celebration, at both church and home. For German children in particular, this is a joyous time of decorating and hanging Easter eggs and eating a lot of chocolate. Easter also means looking forward to an extra-long weekend, as both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Germany and this is the time of year when schools let their students out for a two-week break. Many Germans take this time to travel, and visitors flock to the top German tourist attractions.
If you prefer to avoid bunny rabbits for something a bit more offbeat, Germany still has you covered with Easter traditions that are certainly very different to what you may be familiar with. Here are some uniquely German Easter traditions you might be able to participate in during a springtime trip.
It would seem that Germans love any excuse to decorate a tree. In addition to decorating Christmas trees, a tradition that hails from Germany, Germans also like to decorate their Easter trees. However, instead of ornaments, they paint and dye eggs to hang on the bare branches of the tree, symbolizing the return of spring and color.
Proper Osterei, easter eggs, are hand-blown and carefully decorated with waxes and paints. Pre-dyed eggs are also available at many grocery stores year-round if you don't have time to paint your own. The eggs are usually painted and hung on the tree on Good Friday. Many people buy a small decorative tree for the holiday to keep in the house, but if you have property with trees, you might go for a full-scale Ostereierbaum. These Easter egg trees usually found in city squares or public parks might be covered with thousands of decorative eggs at a time.
Look for Colorful Easter Fountains
Osterbrunnen, or Easter fountains, are another sign the Easter spirit has arrived in Germany. They usually go up a few weeks before Easter Sunday and stay up for a few weeks after. So if you're traveling in March or April, it's highly likely you might be able to see some.
The fountains are the most popular and are common in Germany's more Catholic areas such as Bavaria. They're usually found in public squares and are decorated by local clubs with arches of evergreen and pastel Easter eggs. The most famous place to see the fountains is in the village of Bieberbach in Bavaria. Winning multiple awards for its elaborate decorations, this small village welcomes about 30,000 visitors each year during the Easter season.
If you prefer a more religious celebration of Easter, you might be interested in seeing the famous passion play in Oberammergau, a village in the Bavarian Alps. This reenactment of Jesus Christ's trial, death, and resurrection has been a tradition of Oberammergau since 1633. The tradition began as a thanks to God for sparing them from the plague. It's a production of epic proportions that involves more than 2,000 performers and is six hours long. Although it runs from May to October seven days a week, it only occurs once every 10 years.
The next performance of the play was scheduled to take place in 2020, but due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the play has been postponed until 2022.
Located near Stuttgart in Sonnenbühl, the Easter Egg Museum is an unusual two-story museum dedicated to the tradition of Easter eggs. For more than 25 years, this museum has been a showcase for some of the most impressively decorated Easter eggs and accessories like elaborate egg holders. Here, you'll find eggs decorated in all kinds of styles, many of which were donated by locals. It could be an interesting diversion if you happen to be passing through the area.
Light up an Easter Bonfire
Once Easter arrives, you don't have to just throw away your tree. You can instead add it to the Easter bonfire, which occurs around sunset on Easter Saturday. This tradition is believed to date back to the pagan rituals that were performed to welcome the return of spring.
Modern bonfires are subject to varying city and state regulations, so you'll want to check the rules beforehand. To be safe, look around to see if there is a publicly hosted fire happening near you. These large gatherings are usually more fun because there will likely be vendors offering refreshments. If you are in Berlin for Easter, many fires are hosted in neighborhoods around the city like Spandau and Frohnau.