If you grew up in a historically Christian country, many German Easter traditions will seem familiar to you. Hunting for colorful eggs, the Easter bunny, Easter baskets – each of these beloved Easter traditions were most likely brought to the United States by German immigrants. Although Easter officially marks the end of Lent and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of the German Easter customs and traditions most likely came from pagan fertility cults that were later incorporated into this traditional Christian holiday. Let’s have a look at how to celebrate Easter in Germany.
- Easter is celebrated a day longer in Germany
- What Germans eat on Easter
- German Easter vocabulary you need to know
Easter is celebrated a day longer in Germany
That’s right. In Germany you don’t just celebrate Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag), you also have Easter Monday (Ostermontag). In most families, the Easter feast and egg hunt take place on Ostersonntag, while Ostermontag is a day to relax or enjoy a fun Easter egg race with the kids.
So when is Easter holiday in Germany? Like elsewhere in the world, Easter follows the vernal equinox, which shifts slightly year to year. That’s why the holiday sometimes happens at various times in April, and sometimes even in March. Either way, the dates are the same as any country where Easter is celebrated.
Good Friday (Karfreitag) is also an official holiday, which means a four-day break from work and school. Because of this, those in Germany who choose not to celebrate Easter in a traditional fashion sometimes take the opportunity to leave the country and travel to warmer climates.
What Germans eat on Easter
When it comes to how you celebrate Easter in Germany, food and traditional delicacies definitely come to mind. Colorful hard-boiled Easter eggs (Ostereier) and boiled potatoes (Salzkartoffeln) commonly find their way on the Easter table celebrations, as do ham and lamb. In Bavaria, the latter comes in both sweet and savory versions. While Lammbraten (roasted lamb) is often the main course, Osterlamm (Easter lamb) cake is a traditional dessert. Baked in a special lamb-shaped form, the scrumptious and adorable cake is topped with powdered sugar and popular with children and adults alike.
If you spend Easter in Frankfurt or anywhere else in the German state of Hessen, you will undoubtedly see a dish of Grüne Sosse (green sauce) on the table. This creamy sauce is made with seven different green herbs, hence the name. Traditionally, you eat it on Maundy Thursday, which is called Gründonnerstag in Germany, but you’ll find it on the Easter table, as well as in traditional Frankfurter pubs throughout the year.
German Easter vocabulary you need to know
If you want to truly find out how to celebrate the Easter holiday in Germany, you definitely need to learn some vocabulary. Here are some of the best words to know.
Osterhase is the German word for the Easter bunny (hare) who hides colorful Ostereier in the garden for the kids to find. Both hares and eggs are ancient fertility symbols, so this part of the Easter tradition can be traced back to the holiday’s pre-Christian roots.
Lighting up a roaring Osterfeuer (Easter bonfire) is an old Easter custom most commonly celebrated in rural areas in Northern Germany. It also dates back to pagan traditions.
Around Easter, people in Germany often decorate twigs with brightly colored eggs. Traditionally, they blow the eggs out of their shell, which is then painted and hung from the branches with colorful ribbons. Today, many people opt for plastic, ceramic or wooden eggs instead which they also use to decorate the trees and bushes in front of their house or hang in the windows.
For the little ones, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without an Osterkorb (Easter basket). Filled with chocolate and candy, German kids use their Osterkorb to gather eggs during the exciting Ostereiersuche (Easter egg hunt).
A regional custom from Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz), Osterbrunnen (Easter fountains) have become popular in other areas in central and southern Germany. For this beautiful tradition, they decorate fountains and other public monuments with colorful eggs and greenery, often in the form of a crown.
Frohe Ostern is definitely an important phrase to learn if you want to celebrate this holiday in Germany: It’s how you say Happy Easter in German!
Whether you take in the beautiful sight of an Osterbrunnen, sample some Grüne Sosse, go to Kirche (church) or simply enjoy a relaxing four-day weekend, Ostern in Germany will definitely be a holiday to remember. As always, learning words related to these Easter customs and traditions is a great and interesting way to expand your German Wortschatz (vocabulary).
Rebecca Dean is a freelance writer originally from California who specializes in writing about travel, education, culture and language learning. A long-time Wahlberlinerin (Berliner-by-choice), Rebecca became a dual US/German citizen in 2019. In her free time, she writes fiction, makes jewelry, sings and hangs out with family and friends. You can find Rebecca professionally on LinkedIn and personally on Instagram.