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.
The Easter Bunny
Hares and eggs have been symbols for fertility and the beginning of life ever since the ancient Greeks. You can see them pictured with Aphrodite or the Germanic goddess Holda. In Christian theology, eggs became symbols of resurrection and made great gifts at Easter. The first recorded connection between hares and eggs appeared in a book by Georg Franck von Franckenau in 1682, titled “De ovis paschalibus – von Oster-Eyern.” He described how bunnies would hide eggs for children around Easter and warned that over-consumption of eggs may lead to stomach aches. Up to the early 1800s, bunnies competed with cuckoo birds, foxes, roosters and storks for the honor to hide the eggs. But in the early 20th century, bakers all over Germany began to offer bunny pastries and eventually hollow Easter bunny chocolates (made by using a centrifugal technique copied from beekeepers) in their stores. The hare prevailed. Today, some 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!
Painted Easter Egg Traditions
Painting hard-boiled eggs is a very old tradition. In Eastern Europe and the ethnic Sorbs in East Germany, Easter egg painting is a special art form. Bright colors reminiscent of burgeoning spring flowers have specific religious meaning: red for the sacrifice of Christ, yellow for the desire for enlightenment and wisdom, white for purity, green for innocence, and orange for strength and ambition . Today, the tradition of giving Easter eggs and other gifts transcends religious, ethnic and cultural affiliations. Painting, hiding and finding hand-colored eggs along with confectionaries will bring smiles to children of all ages! There are many other uses for painted Easter eggs:
Eggs on Twigs (Osterstrauch) – prick a small holes on each side of a raw painted egg, carefully blow out the liquid content and hang them with gleeful ribbons around bare twigs of a bush or tree.
Egg Tapping (Osterei Titschen): Take two painted hard-boiled eggs and two players. First, the two narrow ends are tapped against each other until one breaks. Next comes the round ends. Who’s egg remains intact wins. Hint: its the skillful movement of the wrist that makes the difference.
Egg Roll (Osterei Schieben): Take hard-boiled eggs and let them roll down a grassy, sloped hill. Chidren can push the egg with a stick when they are stuck. The egg that reaches the goal at the bottom of the hill wins wins.
Egg Run: Balance a raw egg on a spoon and run 25 meters. Those come in first with an unbroken egg win
Egg Throw: Using a sling-shot made out of wool, hard0boiled eggs are thrown as far as possible across a meadow with tall grass (for a soft landing). In Southern Austria, eggs are flung across a house and buried on the other side which brings luck.
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!
German confectioners produce a large variety of unique and delicious German Easter Sweets that can be hidden among the yellow Forsythia bushes and crocus leaves. Some examples: nougat-filled egg shells – yes, real egg shells, carefully cleaned and refilled with delicious hazelnut chocolate; Schaumküsse (marshmallow kisses), which are made from fluffy marshmellow cream enrobed in dark and milk chocolates; Luebecker marzipan filled eggs; or “Katzenzungen” milk chocolates, Many of these products are available at our website The Taste of Germany.com.