Easter in Germany
The celebration of Easter in Germany is probably one of the most important events of the year. Many of the customs associated with its celebration are originally from this country, such as the used of decorated eggs and the Easter bunny.
But a few weeks before celebrating Easter in Germany, there is another spring event that is hold in some parts of the country, such as in the Neckar Valley. It is called "Sommertagszug",which translates as "summer day parade".
Sommertagszug ( the summer day parade)
This special event, the Sommertagszug, is celebrated three weeks before Easter, on the Laetare Sunday (Sonntag Laetare), also called Mid-Lent (Mittfasten, (mi-carême for the French), in the south-west provinces of Germany. It is a Frühlingfest (Spring Fête) to welcome summer and tell winter that its time has come and it must go away.
A Zug (train-parade) with lots of kids costumed as little ducklings wearing yellow rain jackets and ducks' heads as hats parading in town, holding big Pretzels placed at the tip of sticks, which are decorated with multi-colour ribbons and have an egg in the middle.
There is also, pulled along by some happy men wearing costumes, a snowman representing old winter standing on a dried tree made of straw. And further along, on another platform, a green tree decorated with coloured eggs, wreaths, and a rooster and a crane representing spring and summer. During the parade, the kids are singing a song telling winter to go, that summer is here.
At the end of the parade, the winter tree and the snowman are burned in a big bonfire and everyone is happy to sing that winter is dead and "Der Sommertag ist da" (summer here).
Easter in Germany
Easter Market (Ostermarkt)
A few weeks before Easter Sunday in Germany, you can also see in many towns an Easter Market, called Ostermarkt in German, where they sell decorated Easter eggs, chocolate eggs and bunnies, spring ornaments and more Easter crafts. Germans love to decorate their house and garden with Easter decoration. But be careful about chocolate Easter eggs in Germany: many contain alcohol and are not suitable for young kids.
Many of these Easter decorations come directly from the pagan Frühlingfest's (spring fête) symbols of fertility such as the egg (Ei) and the rabbits (Hasen) that became the Ostereier (Easter eggs) and the Osterhasen (Easter bunnies). It is the Germans who brought these customs with them when they immigrated to North America.
On the other hand, Easter in Germany does still have a few customs of its own such as the "Osterbaum" (the Easter Tree) and the "Osterbrunnen" (Easter Fountain).
These Easter trees are either made of branches cut from pussy willows or other flowering bushes or are small living trees and bushes that are already planted around the house.
In the case of the cut branches, they are usually brought in the house and put in a vase to be decorated with hand painted wooden eggs, hollowed out real eggs and little garlands. In the same way, the living trees and bushes outside the house are also decorated with plastic, wooden or real painted eggs and wreaths. It makes for a splash of colour in otherwise often gray spring days, giving the towns and cities a more festive atmosphere.
Of course little Easter chocolate eggs are also left by the big Easter Bunny (Osterhase) around bushes and trees for kids to find on Easter Sunday. Another tradition introduced in North America by Germans settlers.
The customs of the Easter fountain (or well) is found only in the German region called Franconia (Franken in German) which comprises: the northern part of Bavaria, North-west Baden-Württemberg and Südthüringen. It is an old tradition designed to celebrate the importance of water as a life giver and it is believe that the water that has been blessed on Easter Sunday has special powers.
Throughout the year, women collect hollowed eggs, hand paint them and string them together to make colourful garlands that will be used to decorate the villages' central fountains. They also make arches and crowns of evergreen branches decorated with a few eggs and some times with little rabbits as well as roosters or hens. The crowns and arches are usually placed on the tip of the fountain. All these decorations come up a week or so before Easter Sunday and stay on the fountain for about a week after, making the town center a very colourful and festive sight, especially on Saturday's Market with all the vendors stalls around it.
Frohe Ostern! Happy Easter in Germany!
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