After a long winter, Easter in Germany for many families is the first time to celebrate outdoors. A variety of traditions and customs provide fun activities surrounding Easter… the greatest feast of Christianity.
The Easter festival is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Easter for Christians originated from the Jewish Passover (Pesach) festival which is over 3000 years old and both are celebrated at the same time. For Jews, Passover is celebrated in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. For Christians, Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
The German name “Ostern” has ancient Germanic roots going back to the Germanic Teutonic goddess of spring called “Ostara”. Traces of pagan elements can be seen in today’s Easter traditions, such as the painted Easter eggs dating back to a pre-Christian fertility symbol. Since the 17th century, hiding and finding eggs has become a common practice. In certain regions of Germany, painting eggs is considered a folk art.
In some areas of Germany, families still enjoy a fun competition called the “Ostereiertitschen.” Two players knock their hard-boiled egg tops together and the one whose top does not break wins. This game, depending on the region, is called Ostereier-ticken”, “- düpfen”,”-ditschen”, “-tüppen”, or “-kitschen”. Around Easter the German population eats a total of 570 million eggs!
The tradition of the “Easter fire” in Germany goes back to pre-Christian times. Spring fires was a pagan ritual to welcome the sun, which is considered the center of life, and was meant to ensure fertility, growth and harvest. The importance of the spring fire was recognized by the Christian faith and was reinterpreted to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus as the light of the world.
The holy Easter fire is a key event in a few regions in northern Germany. Entire families and groups of young people gather to light bonfires the Saturday before Easter. The Paschal Candle, lit from this fire, became a Christian practice in the 4th Century AD in an effort to unite Greek, Jewish, Roman and Christian traditions.
In Germany there has been increased criticism on the subject of Easter because the festival is becoming more and more commercialized. A stroll through a German Ostermärkte (Easter market) will tantalize your tastebuds and delight your eyes as artisans, artists and chocolatiers showcase their Easter art and treats. Just like in just about all of the other countries in which Easter is celebrated, the staple item on everyone’s list is certainly chocolate. Each year Germans buy more than 120 million chocolate Easter bunnies.
Photo by April Griffus via flickr