After Christmas, Easter is the most important holiday in Germany. The Easter holidays begin on Good Friday (Karfreitag) and include Easter Monday (Ostermontag). Since Easter is a national holiday, businesses are closed on these days and students enjoy a two-week Easter vacation that Germans traditionally use to travel.
The Origins of Easter
Although Easter celebrations date back to the earliest days of the Christian Church, the actual Easter customs can be traced back to pre-Christian rites and celebrations related to the arrival of spring. This explains the symbols of the dyed egg (which stands for fertility) and the Easter bunny (Osterhase). Easter celebrations therefore assume both religious and secular forms. In the German Protestant and Catholic Church Easter is the most important day in the church calendar, reflecting Christianity’s origins in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Unlike Christmas, Easter is not celebrated on a fixed day but is determined by the Church on the Sunday following the Vernal Equinox. Consequently, Easter always falls upon the first Sunday, after the first full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox. If Easter Sunday occurs on the full moon itself, the holiday will be postponed to the following Sunday instead.
German Easter Traditions
During Easter time, Germans decorate their homes with branches, colorful eggs and chocolate bunnies. On Easter Sunday, parents awake early to hide dyed Easter eggs or chocolate eggs in the garden or, if they live in the country, on a meadow. Before the children wake up, mothers decorate a little basket with green paper grass and fill it with chocolate Easter bunnies, dyed eggs and chocolate eggs and place it on the breakfast table. Children, however, do not anticipate seeing the basket, but rather are anxious to hunt for the eggs hidden in the garden in a competition with their brothers and sisters.
This is how Easter was and remains for children who reside in the country. Children in the city, however, expect to find an ipod or play station games in their baskets.
Traditional German Easter Lunch
The traditional Easter Sunday lunch is lamb or rabbit with vegetables such as asparagus. For dessert, a cake in the form of a lamb is baked. On Good Friday most Germans eat fish such as carp, salmon or seafood. On Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, in many small catholic communities, Easter processions take place and people eat in restaurants after the procession. Usually, however, Easter is simply a day to remain at home and invite friends and family for lunch.