German Traditions Spring Up at Easter

Fountain decorated for Easter

Photos courtesy German National Tourist Board

Easter celebrations are among the oldest, most traditional and unique celebrations in Germany. A myriad of differing regional traditions, Easter markets and special celebrations start weeks before the four-day Easter weekend from April 5 to April 9. Many of the American Easter traditions, including egg decorating, Easter trees, Easter egg games and, of course, the chocolate Easter bunny, were brought to America by German immigrants.

In preparation for Easter, towns decorate their fountains and trees with eggs and wind crepe paper around the branches. On the Easter Eve, bonfires are lit celebrating the new and getting rid of the old. Easter markets throughout the country exhibit Easter eggs and spring-themed local arts and crafts in surroundings from historic cities and castles to landscape parks. The markets last either a few weeks or a weekend and are a favorite leisure time activity for locals and tourists alike.

Easter decorations

Being one of the oldest Easter markets in Germany, the Haeferles Market in Nuremberg in Franconia is the first major event of the spring season. With over 80 stalls in the middle of the historic city center, this market offers everything around the Easter holidays, from hand-painted eggs to wooden decorations (March 23 – April 9). Further to the north in the charming town of medieval Wolfenbuettel, about two hours from Frankfurt, the Easter market takes place in a royal surrounding. In the courtyard of the 18th century residence castle of the Guelphs in the city center, over 60 artists and craftsman from the region display their works on the weekend before Easter (March 31 – April 1). Then, on Easter Saturday a huge rabbit emerges from an enormous nest and distributes candy to the children.

Lady in Sorbian costume handcrafts traditional Easter egg painting using wax-resist techniques.

The festivities are closely followed by a duck race where the ducks are thrown into the river and race to the other side. One of the largest Easter Egg Fairs in Germany takes place in the beautiful landscape park Luisenpark in Mannheim from March 31 to April 4. The International Easter Egg Market at Mannheim’s Baumhainhalle hosts over 40 artists from Germany, Russia, France, Switzerland and Hungary.

St. Wendel fountain decorated for Easter

A very special Easter culture exists in eastern Germany near the border with Poland. The Sorbs, a Slavic minority that has lived for generations in this area called Lusatia, celebrate Easter with a parade called the “Kreuztritt” (Cross Walk) on Easter Sunday. The men of the village dressed in traditional costumes of black jackets and top hats, ride horses in a circle from town to town announcing the resurrection of Christ. The Sorbs also are masters in the art of Easter egg painting. Sorbian artists from all over the region exhibit their skills during the Lenten season. The Egg Rolling and colorful Easter Market on Easter Sunday are wonderful highlights during the Easter weekend, April 7 and 8.

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