German Easter Traditions

Easter traditions in Germany are similar to those found in other predominantly Christian countries, from the religious commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the ever-so-popular Osterhase. See below for a closer look at some of Germany's customs of rebirth and renewal. 

Easter Bonfires

Gathering at Easter bonfire
Gathering at Easter bonfire in Germany. Flickr Vision / Getty Images

Many people gather around large bonfires reaching several meters high on the eve of Easter Sunday. Often the wood of old Christmas trees is used for this occasion.

This German custom is actually an old pagan ritual dating back to before Christ to symbolize the coming of spring. Back then it was believed that any home or field shone upon by the light of the fire would be protected from sickness and misfortune.

Der Osterhase (Easter Rabbit)

Close-Up Of Rabbits On Field
Bruno Brando / EyeEm / Getty Images

This hopping Easter creature is believed to originate from Germany. The first known account of der Osterhase is found in the 1684 notes of a Heidelberg professor of medicine, where he discusses the ill-effects of overeating Easter eggs. German and Dutch settlers later brought the notion of der Osterhase or  Oschter Haws (Dutch) to the U.S. in the 1700s.

Der Osterfuchs (Easter Fox) and other Easter Egg Deliverers

Portrait Of Fox Pup On Field
Michael Liewer / EyeEm / Getty Images

 In some parts of Germany and Switzerland, children waited for der Osterfuchs instead. Children would hunt for his yellow Fuchseier (fox eggs) on Easter morning which were dyed with yellow onion skins. Other Easter egg deliverers in German-speaking countries included the Easter rooster (Saxony), the stork (Thuringia) and the Easter chick. Unfortunately, in the past several decades, these animals have found themselves with fewer delivery jobs as der Osterhase has gained more widespread fame.

Der Osterbaum (Easter Tree)

Lilac flowers (Syringa) in eggs shell. Easter decor
Antonel / Getty Images

It's only in recent years that miniature Easter trees have become popular in North America. This Easter tradition from Germany is a favorite. Beautifully decorated Easter eggs are hung on branches in a vase in the home or on trees outside, adding a splash of color to spring's palette.

Das Gebackene Osterlamm (Baked Easter Lamb)

Easter lamb and daffodil on chopping board
Westend61 / Getty Images

This delicious baked cake in the form of a lamb is a sought-after treat during Easter season. Whether made simply, such as with Hefeteig (yeast dough) only or with a rich creamy filling in the center, either way, the Osterlamm is always a hit with kids. You can find a great assortment of Easter lamb cake recipes at Osterlammrezepte.

Das Osterrad (Easter Wheel)

Osterrad Lügde stopfen
Nifoto/Public domain/ via Wikimedia Commons

This custom is practiced in a few regions in northern Germany. For this tradition, hay is stuffed into a large wooden wheel, then lit and rolled down a hill at nighttime. A long, wooden pole pulled through the wheel's axle helps it keep its balance. If the wheel reaches all the way to the bottom intact, then a good harvest is predicted. The city of Lügde in Weserbergland prides itself on being the Osterradstadt, since it has followed this tradition yearly for over a thousand years.

Osterspiele (Easter Games)

Group of children having fun on an Easter Egg Hunt.
Helen Marsden #christmassowhite / Getty Images

Rolling eggs down a hill is also a tradition in Germany and other German-speaking countries, found in games such as Ostereierschieben and Eierschibbeln.

Der Ostermarkt (Easter Market)

Close-Up Of Eggs At Market Stall
Michael Mller / EyeEm / Getty Images

Just like Germany's wonderful Weihnachtsmärkte, its Ostermärkte also can't be beaten. A stroll through a German Easter market will tantalize your taste buds and delight your eyes as artisans, artists and chocolatiers showcase their Easter art and treats.

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Bauer, Ingrid. "German Easter Traditions." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2018, thoughtco.com/german-easter-traditions-1444511. Bauer, Ingrid. (2018, March 2). German Easter Traditions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/german-easter-traditions-1444511 Bauer, Ingrid. "German Easter Traditions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/german-easter-traditions-1444511 (accessed April 19, 2018).