For those hardy souls who gave up sweets for Lent, Easter brings a sweet release at last! The torment of a confectionery-free existence is no more! On Easter Sunday, children large and small search for eggs brought by the Osterhase (Easter Bunny)! Inside these eggs are chocolate and sweet treats for all to enjoy.
Children may also find some unique and delicious German chocolates hidden among the yellow Forsythia bushes and crocus leaves! They may find nougat-filled egg shells from Gut Springenheide! And yes, these are real egg shells, carefully cleaned and refilled with delicious hazelnut chocolate. They may also discover Schaumküsse (marshmallow kisses) from Halloren. Another favorite is Feodora tin eggs filled with Napolitains (small flat chocolates). Finally, Feodora Katzenzungen chocolates, Niederegger marzipan eggs, or high-quality, single-source origin chocolates from Hachez (Bremen) or Rausch (Berlin). Many of these products are available at our website The Taste of Germany.com.
The Easter Bunny was first mentioned in German writing in the 1500s and was a symbol of the fertile spring. In the early 1800s, the first edible bunnies, made of pastry and sugar, came to the market. 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. Then, these will be hidden throughout the house for the children and family members to find!
This symbol of new life also has European roots. There, hardboiled eggs have long been painted with bright colors reminiscent of burgeoning spring flowers. Today, the tradition of giving Easter eggs and other gifts transcends religious, ethnic and cultural affiliations. Painting, hiding and finding hand-colored eggs with goodies will bring smiles to children of all ages! Especially when they are filled with delicious German chocolates! In Germany, these bright eggs also blossom on trees— Easter-trees (Osterstrauch)! Spring’s bare tree branches are hung with brightly colored eggs held by gleeful 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 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! On Karfreitag (Good Friday) people traditionally eat a fish dinner with their family. Then, on Ostersonntag (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. Ostermontag (Easter Monday) is also a holiday and another occasion for families to come together and celebrate. In some regions in Eastern Europe, it is a tradition for young lads to spray water on innocent victims, usually girls or friends. This may result in full-fledged water fights. In Hungary and adjacent regions, the liquid of choice is a bit of perfume… Real gentlemen, of course, use expensive and carefully selected perfume for the ladies of their choice!
After the holiday, the pleasure continues – with leftovers! One traditional leftover dish is called Eier in gruener Sosse (Eggs in Green Sauce). Despite its name, it is a delicious favorite! However, it’s not to be confused with Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss! For more recipes, including recipes for festive cakes, visit our German Easter Recipes page!