Easter Holidays Top

Germany celebrates Easter with lamb cake, colored eggs and a bonfire

The flowering Easter bush with painted, colorful eggs. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)
The lamb-shaped Easter lamb is made from sponge cake and eaten for breakfast and tea. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

Dresden, GERMANY – There is probably no more stressful time than the days leading up to Easter. But all the stress is forgotten when the actual celebrations begin on Easter Sunday.

My family’s Easter tradition is shaped by different German cultures and ways of celebrating Easter, which vary not only from family to family, but also from region to region.

For me, Easter begins on Maundy Thursday. This is when we traditionally cut branches from fruit trees, which we then place in a vase and decorate with colorful eggs.

The painting of these blown-out eggs alone is a tradition in itself, where the eggs are painted and collected over the years to decorate these branches. The typical Saxon, Sorbian way of painting Easter eggs with wax is particularly elaborate.

In general, the egg plays an important role in German Easter, as it symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus, which is celebrated at Easter. In addition, it used to be forbidden to eat eggs during Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – but the hens still laid them, so they were boiled and colored.

On the one hand, they were dyed red to commemorate the suffering of Christ, but also to distinguish the old eggs from the new eggs and make them last longer. In the Middle Ages, the egg was also a way of settling debts with the feudal lord.

In modern times, however, eggs are no longer used for these purposes, but primarily to decorate and delight children.

On Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny – a symbol of fertility – hides eggs and sweets all over the garden for the children to find.

An Easter egg in its hiding place. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

However, a lot more happens before the Easter egg hunt.

Of course, this includes the typical church Mass and the preparation for Easter by baking Easter bread, which is a sweet yeast dough with almonds, sultanas and sugar icing. People make Easter lambs and the yeast plait, as well as cook and color eggs.

In some German regions, fountains are decorated with wreaths. On Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil takes place in the evening. The priest tells jokes during the sermon for Easter laughter and the Easter fire is also lit.

A traditional Easter breakfast with Easter candle, yeast plait, Easter lamb cake and Easter decorations. (Lina Marie Schulenkorf/YJI)

While this was actually mainly used to light the Easter candle, the Easter bonfire soon became an established custom and meeting place for neighbors, friends and relatives.

People used to dance around the Easter bonfire and, according to superstition, jumping over the bonfire was said to protect against and cure illnesses. An unsuccessful jump and fall, on the other hand, heralds death, which will take place in the same year.

Easter water is drawn from streams between midnight and sunrise, promising health, beauty and eternal youth. Children who are baptized in Easter water are also said to become exceptionally intelligent.

On the Easter Sunday morning, there is of course a lavish Easter breakfast with boiled eggs, yeast plait and Easter lamb, as well as the so-called Easter ride after the Easter service in the Sorbian communities.

The Sorbian men in frock coats ride on decorated horses with banners, statues of Christ and crosses to neighboring villages to proclaim the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Prayers and songs are sung along the way and in the neighboring parish.

The procession circles the village square once, where there is another prayer and blessing. The visiting riders are cared for and a similar visit is paid to the visiting village – although the two processions are not allowed to cross paths.

The Easter egg hunt and the Easter walk then round off Easter Sunday, while Easter Monday usually serves to wind down the long weekend.

Lina Marie Schulenkorf is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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