One legend about Easter, I was told when I was a child, is that on Good Friday all church bells fly to Rome and come back on Easter Sunday, explaining why the bells don’t chime before Sunday.
When I think of the Easter weekend today, the image that comes into my mind, are the long walks our parents took with us through the forests and fields of the neighborhood. It was tradition that the older children would tell the younger ones that they had just seen the Easter bunny disappear behind those trees, while secretly dropping Easter eggs here and there for the smaller children to find. That was always a time of suspense. Then, on Easter Sunday, all children would wake up knowing that the Easter bunny had been there early that morning, hiding Easter eggs and maybe a little present for them to find.
Easter has also always been a time of renewal of the nature. Early on we would go out and pick branches of the early blooming bushes and trees, like birches and forsythias. Those were then decorated with eggs that had been blown out and painted or dyed in fresh spring colors. Easter was always a time of joy, as well as the end of Lent and was celebrated by large dinners with the entire family. On Easter Monday we all go to the Easter markets or on long hikes through the recovering nature.
In Germany, as in other countries, many pagan traditions have survived from the old times and the churches have absorbed them. That is why we so joyfully decorate our houses and gardens with eggs and spring symbols, and why we bake Easter cakes in the shape of bunnies and lambs.
A tradition that is based on the Service of Light, part of the Easter liturgy, are the Easter fires. All neighbors come together to stand around a huge fire and to celebrate the start of the Easter season, which traditionally lasts until Pentecost. Those fires burn high and for a long time because everyone brings wood and old branches to throw into the fire.. Some of us have been known to sit around an Easter fire all night.