German Easter Traditions in America
In Germany, Easter is a holiday that is as highly regarded as Christmas. The German Easter traditions start on the Good Friday and end with the Second Easter Holiday, which is the Monday after Easter Sunday. In some regions in Germany, it starts already on the Thursday before Easter. It’s a long weekend and most of the businesses, banks, schools, and government offices are closed. Easter marks the beginning of spring, and I always associate it with a phrase from the Osterspaziergang (Outside of the Gate) better known in English as the “Easter Walk” by the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe where he says:
“Zufrieden jauchzet Gross und Klein: Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ich’s sein!”
“Contented, great and small shout joyfully, here I am Man, here dare it to be!”
Did you know, that the Americans adopted the bunny from the Germans as one of their Easter traditions?
The Easter bunny was first introduced to America by German immigrants in the 1700s. To learn more about the egg-laying hare, these Pennsylvania Dutch settlers called “Oschter Haws,” click here.
The Easter traditions are structured and start on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Good Friday is a very quiet day—and the parents always made sure of it. No loud noises, or raised voices, and definitely no fighting. On this day, my mother prepared the cakes and food for the Easter weekend. The Good Friday meal consisted of creamed spinach, potatoes cooked in salt water, and scrambled eggs. It’s a tradition I still keep today and share with my family and friends year after year. (See recipe below.) The eggs we eat are blown out after pricking a hole with a needle on top and bottom. The shells are painted and decorated by the children. Afterward, we would hang them on budding branches—either forsythia, cherry tree, willow tree, or pussy willow.
We always color the hard-boiled eggs on Saturday. The Sunday morning breakfast starts with the Easter Wreath—a decorated cake-like bread. (Recipe below.) After breakfast, the parents hide the eggs outside. Once all the eggs have been found, children visit their godfathers and godmothers—where Easter baskets await them filled with goodies that include chocolates, fruit gums, more colored eggs, and the ever-present chocolate bunny. The godparents in Germany are very important in children’s lives, and in most of the families, are also involved in helping to raise them the right way. In the emotional hierarchy, the godmother comes right after the mother and grandmother. This certainly was very true for my godmother and me. For sure, she had a lot of influence in helping to create the person I am today.
For Easter dinner, my mother always prepared rabbit with salad and dumplings. I just couldn’t eat the poor thing. Especially since I played during the week with him—feeding him clovers and dandelion. The thought of eating my friend didn’t sit well with me at all. Well, at least the salad and dumplings were good.
One of the Easter traditions I liked very much were the get-together later in the afternoon. The whole family went for their Osterspaziergang “Easter Walk” to the designated place in town to meet most of the neighbors and extended families.
While the grown-ups had their serious talk, the children kept busy outside with fun and games like the egg-and-spoon race, the sack race, and the egg toss.
Whereas the Christmas holidays are always filled with excitement and joyful anticipation, the Easter holidays with it’s Easter traditions are usually more low- key, and the children by instinct understand the difference in the atmosphere.
Click the links for Oma’s recipes.
No Easter is complete without Peter Rabbit.
Fill your Easter basket with the classic tales by Beatrix Potter. Click here for my thoughts on this furry family of critters, plus where to find the most amazing assortment of Peter Rabbit collectibles. They’re sure to make a great Easter gift for the little hoppers in your family.