For those hardy souls who gave up sweets for Lent, Easter brings a sweet release from the torment of a confectionery-free existence! On Easter Sunday, children large and small search for eggs brought by the Osterhase (Easter Bunny). Perhaps they will also find some unique and delicious German Easter chocolates hidden among the yellow Forsythia bushes and crocus leaves. They could find nougat-filled egg shells from Gut Springenheide (yes, real egg shells, carefully cleaned and refilled with delicious hazelnut chocolate), Schaumküsse (marshmallow kisses) from Halloren, Feodora tin eggs filled with Napolitains (small flat chocolates), Feodora Katzenzungen chocolates, marzipan eggs from Niederegger, Cocoa Arriba chocolate leaves from Hachez or single-origin chocolates from Rausch. Many of these products are available at World Market, Fresh Market, German specialty food shops and online.
The Easter bunny, first mentioned in German writing in the 1500s, is a symbol of the fertile spring. In the early 1800s, the first edible Easter bunnies, made of pastry and sugar, came to the market in Germany. The tradition was brought to American shores by German settlers arriving in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Today, German children still believe that if they are good, the Osterhase, will lay a nest of colored eggs and hide them throughout the home.
The Easter egg, a symbol of new life, also has European roots. The practice of decorating boiled eggs began in Europe, where Easter eggs have long been painted with bright colors reminiscent of burgeoning spring flowers. Today the tradition of giving Easter eggs and other Easter gifts transcends religious, ethnic and cultural affiliations. Painting, hiding and finding hand-colored Easter eggs and (along with some German chocolate bunnies and candies) will bring smiles to children of all ages.
In Germany Easter eggs also blossom on trees— Easter trees (Osterstrauch)! Spring's bare tree branches are hung with brightly colored eggs held by gay ribbons. You can find fancifully hand-painted eggs made just for this purpose at German retail stores. However, it's more traditional and more enjoyable to make the eggs at home with family and friends.
In Germany the Easter celebration starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday, with traditional dishes for each day. The first day is Gründonnerstag, or Maundy Thursday. The name Gründonnerstag derives from greinen, an old German word for mourning or crying. However, since Gründonnerstag sounds like "green Thursday" in German, many people celebrate by eating green dishes like Seven Herb Soup, made with spinach, parsley, leek, chive, dandelion and sorrel. On Karfreitag (Good Friday) people traditionally eat a fish dinner with their family. Then on Easter Sunday, the whole family gathers together to celebrate with a festive meal. The main dish for this meal is often lamb, since it represents innocence and humility.
After the holiday, the pleasure of a German Easter continues – with leftovers! One traditional Easter leftover dish is called Eier in gruener Sosse (Eggs in Green Sauce), which, despite its name, it is a delicious favorite. For more Easter recipes, including recipes for festive Easter cakes, visit our German Easter Recipes page.