German Easter traditions
The Easter season starts in earnest on Thursday with Maundy Thursday marking the last meal Jesus had with his disciples.
Easter traditions follow the religious calendar with Friday a day of mourning (the crucifixion of Christ) before celebrating on Monday to mark his resurrection.
From rolling wheels filled with burning hay down a hill, to waiting for a fox to bring eggs, here are the nine best German Easter traditions.
1) Make a fire: On the night before Easter Sunday, thousands of Germans gather around huge bonfires. Traditionally the wood of old Christmas trees is used. It marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. It also drives away the evil winter spirits.
2) Make a wheely big fire: Not content with a standard fire, some regions stuff hay into a large wooden wheel, set it on fire and roll it down a hill at night. It is supposed to bring a good harvest if it makes it all the way down the hill intact. Lügde in Lower Saxony is particularly famous for its burning wheel rolling.
3) An Easter fox?: The Easter bunny bringing eggs to children can be traced back to Germany. German and Dutch settlers brought the tradition to the US in the 18th Century. But in some parts of the country children used to wait for the Easter fox or a stork instead to bring them their gifts. The bunny has now taken over, however.
4) Eat a lamb: The lamb is also a symbol of spring and fertility and is traditionally eaten at Easter. Germans also bake a cake in the form of a lamb.
5) Paint some eggs: Painting Easter eggs is a tradition now done in many countries but it is particularly strong in Germany. Painting the eggs was seen as a form of blessing them before they were eaten to mark the end of the Easter fasting period.
6) Get a tree: The painted eggs are often hung on Easter trees and this German tradition has spread to other countries. One of the most famous examples is this tree in Thuringia.
7) Laughing priests: To celebrate Jesus’s resurrection on Easter Monday, three days after his death, Germans are supposed to laugh. The priest should also traditionally give a funny service.
8) Eat your fish and be quiet: On Good Friday, “Karfreitag” in German, no church bells ring, no songs are sung and no music should be played as this is the day Jesus was crucified. The word “kar” comes from old German “kara” meaning lamentation. It is a day of fasting where the only meal eaten should be fish.
9) Eat something green: “Gründonnerstag” – Maundy Thursday in English – is the last time Jesus ate with his disciples before he was crucified. The word “grün” in Germany does not in this case come from the colour green but from the old German word “grönan” which means crying. But some people still eat just green food on this day, like these amazing eggs in green Frankfurter sauce.