Coloured Easter eggs, the Easter bunny … many Easter traditions well known all over the world are said to have originated in Germany. True or not, spending time around Easter in Germany means plenty of colourful decorations and traditional Easter/Spring food everywhere.
Many of the German Easter traditions go back to old pagan and Christian rituals welcoming Spring and banishing the evil spirits of winter. And whilst in this part of Europe cooler weather can linger well into April and sometimes even May, this is the time when Germany’s festival season is starting to gather path with the first Spring festivals underway across the country.
If you are planning a trip to Germany, I really recommend considering to visit around the long Easter weekend. In particular the historic towns and villages will boast beautiful Easter decorations, many towns and cities will host festivals linked to old Easter or Spring traditions and most hotels will offer special Easter packages including traditional Easter menus and large Easter brunches.
So what can you expect when visiting Germany for Easter?
Traditional German Easter decorations and activities
One of the most common decorations that you will likely encounter everywhere is the Easter tree. Outside, this will be a tree or bush decorated with colourful painted eggs. Inside, Easter trees are usually composed of branches cut from bushes that are just about start to flower, decorated again with lots of painted eggs.
Mainly in the smaller towns and villages, you will also find public fountains and the main town squares adorned with Easter decorations.
In the weeks ahead of the long Easter weekend, throughout the country there will be numerous Easter markets. These are quite similar to the world famous Christmas markets, albeit much less known and typically much smaller and most are open only on weekends.
In the night before Easter Sunday bonfires will be lit in many cities, towns and villages. This tradition goes back to an pagan ritual to welcome Spring and banish the evil spirits of winter. It was once said, all homes and fields that were lit up by the fires would be protected from sickness and yield a good harvest.
If you happen to be in Germany during the long Easter weekend (or some other Northern European countries like Sweden, Finland or Austria) check out where bonfires are hold. Today these are often celebrated as full blown festivals including music, arts, and of course food and drink.
No German Easter is whole without the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Coloured eggs (and these days lots of other goodies, mostly chocolate like again eggs, Easter bunnies and more) are hidden in the house and outside in the garden; and kids will go on the hunt in the morning of Easter Sunday to find all the hidden goodies.
Traditional German Easter food
Depending on local customs, traditional food eaten over the long Easter weekend can be quite different in the various German regions. However, there are some habits you can expect to find throughout the whole country.
The long Ester weekend kicks off with Gründonnerstag (green Thursday). Though this is not an official holiday as shops and businesses stay open, it is widely celebrated as the start of the Spring season by eating green foods (vegetables, soups and salads).
A very typical green food dish in many regions is hard boiled eggs in green sauce which is made with seven different fresh herbs: parsley, chives, borage, cress, sorrel, salad burnet and chervil.
The long weekend starts in earnest with Good Friday. Historically this is a day of fasting, not celebrating, and it is usually spend at home. It is likely the public German holiday that is spend in a very quiet fashion. Most German families will go with the tradition and eat fish – as many still habitually do throughout the year on a Friday.
Saturday before Easter Sunday is a relatively normal day and most Germans will take advantage of the day to make final preparations for the next two days.
Easter Sunday traditionally kicks off with the Easter egg hunt; children are searching for coloured hard boiled eggs – and lots of sweet candies and chocolates – hidden by the Easter rabbit in the garden.
For many German families, the most important meal is the Easter Brunch on Easter Sunday. Along with lots of hard boiled coloured eggs, I cannot think of an Easter Sunday brunch at home without Hefezopf, a soft, slightly moist and fluffy braided bread that has a subtle sweetness to it. To elevate the braided bread to a real Easter treat, it is traditionally adorned with – what else – coloured eggs.
Traditionally there are also several other sweet baked goods to be found on the Easter brunch menu, including Easter Bunny Brioches, baked Easter lambs and carrot cakes.
However, perhaps the most traditional food eaten on Easter Sunday is lamb. It is indeed considered the dish most synonymous with the beginning of Spring in Germany.
The long Easter weekend ends with Easter Monday, which is another public holiday. It is again a day mostly spend together with family, often similar to Easter Sunday just a bit quieter.
Would you like to spend a long Easter weekend in Germany?