10 ways to celebrate Easter in Germany like a local

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10 ways to celebrate Easter in Germany like a local
An Easter tree in Wulkau, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA.

Whether it's setting giant rolling wheels ablaze, or decorating their 'Easter trees', Germans have some quite amusing traditions to entertain themselves during Easter.


The Easter season starts in earnest on Maundy Thursday, marking the last meal Jesus had with his disciples.

Easter traditions follow the religious calendar with Friday a day of mourning (the crucifixion of Christ) before Easter Sunday marking his resurrection.

If you really want to celebrate like a true German, let this list be your guide.

1. Eat something green

Photo: DPA

Gründonnerstag - Maundy Thursday in English - is the last time Jesus ate with his disciples before he was crucified in what is known as the Last Supper. But the word grün in Germany does not in this case mean the colour green. It actually comes from the old German word grunen or greinen, meaning to cry, as theologian Ingolf Hübner told Spiegel.

Nevertheless, many Germans make it their tradition to eat green foods on this day anyway, including spinach or Frankfurt's famous green sauce.

2. Eat your fish, stop dancing, and be quiet

Photo: DPA
On Good Friday, Karfreitag in German, traditionally no church bells are supposed to ring, no songs are sung and no music should be played as this is the day Jesus was crucified. The word Kar comes from old German Kara, meaning sorrow or grief.
For many places, this quiet time also means it is still illegal to dance on Good Friday. But whether anyone actually enforces this is another question.
And for Catholics, it is also a day of fasting when fish rather than meat should be eaten.

3. Make a bonfire

An Easter bonfire on the island of Norderney. Photo: DPA

On the night before Easter Sunday, Germans across the country gather around huge bonfires, sometimes built with the wood of old Christmas trees. Depending on the region, you might notice these bonfires are planned for different days of the Easter time Holy Week.


The fire marks the end of winter and the coming of spring - and some say it also drives away the evil winter spirits.

4. Make a wheely big fire

Easter as celebrated in Lügde. Photo: DPA

Not content with a standard fire, some regions stuff straw into a large wooden wheel, set it on fire and roll it down a hill at night. This is called the Osterräderlauf - Easter wheel run.

The burning wheel is supposed to bring a good harvest if all wheels released roll straight down the hill. Lügde in North Rhine-Westphalia is particularly famous for its burning wheel rolling.

5. Search for goodies from the Easter Bunny

Photo: DPA

You may already be familiar with this tradition, but the idea of an egg-hiding Easter Bunny actually came from the Germans first. There are many different theories for how the myth came about, and in some regions there were also Easter Foxes and Easter Cranes in the past.


SEE ALSO: The very deutsch origins of the Easter Bunny

6. Eat a lamb

Photo: DPA

The lamb in Christianity is a symbol of Jesus Christ, as he was the sacrificial "Lamb of God" sent to die for the sins of humanity.

So you might also see lamb on the menu for Easter. And some Germans also bake cakes in the form of a lamb.

7. Paint some eggs

A girl painting an ostrich egg. Photo: DPA

This is also a very traditional German custom. In fact, the oldest surviving decorated egg dates back to the fourth century AD, and was discovered in a Romano-Germanic sarcophagus near Worms in Rhineland-Palatinate.

8. Get an 'Easter tree'

Photo: DPA

Christmas isn't the only holiday in Germany involving a tree. Germans also like to decorate their foliage with colourful hanging eggs in time for Easter in what is known as an Osterbaum - Easter tree.

9. Fight with your eggs

One game that some German families enjoy playing on Easter is Ostereiertitschen or Eierklopfen - egg tapping - though it has different names in different regions.
The basic premise is that two players each hold a hard-boiled egg in hand and with it try to crack their opponent's egg as much as possible without damaging their own.
10. Go for a walk
Germans also use all their time off over the long Easter weekend to get a bit of exercise in der Natur. The public holiday on Easter Monday is often the best time to do this.
This article was originally published on April 11th, 2017 and updated on April 15th, 2019.


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