10 ways to celebrate Easter in Germany like a local

Whether it's setting giant rolling wheels ablaze, or decorating their 'Easter trees', Germans have some quite amusing traditions to entertain themselves during Easter.

10 ways to celebrate Easter in Germany like a local
An Easter tree in Wulkau, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA.

The Easter season starts in earnest on Maundy Thursday, marking the last meal Jesus had with his disciples.

Easter traditions follow the religious calendar with Friday a day of mourning (the crucifixion of Christ) before Easter Sunday marking his resurrection.

If you really want to celebrate like a true German, let this list be your guide.

1. Eat something green

Photo: DPA

Gründonnerstag – Maundy Thursday in English – is the last time Jesus ate with his disciples before he was crucified in what is known as the Last Supper. But the word grün in Germany does not in this case mean the colour green. It actually comes from the old German word grunen or greinen, meaning to cry, as theologian Ingolf Hübner told Spiegel.

Nevertheless, many Germans make it their tradition to eat green foods on this day anyway, including spinach or Frankfurt's famous green sauce.

2. Eat your fish, stop dancing, and be quiet

Photo: DPA
On Good Friday, Karfreitag in German, traditionally no church bells are supposed to ring, no songs are sung and no music should be played as this is the day Jesus was crucified. The word Kar comes from old German Kara, meaning sorrow or grief.
For many places, this quiet time also means it is still illegal to dance on Good Friday. But whether anyone actually enforces this is another question.
And for Catholics, it is also a day of fasting when fish rather than meat should be eaten.

3. Make a bonfire

An Easter bonfire on the island of Norderney. Photo: DPA

On the night before Easter Sunday, Germans across the country gather around huge bonfires, sometimes built with the wood of old Christmas trees. Depending on the region, you might notice these bonfires are planned for different days of the Easter time Holy Week.

The fire marks the end of winter and the coming of spring – and some say it also drives away the evil winter spirits.

4. Make a wheely big fire

Easter as celebrated in Lügde. Photo: DPA

Not content with a standard fire, some regions stuff straw into a large wooden wheel, set it on fire and roll it down a hill at night. This is called the Osterräderlauf – Easter wheel run.

The burning wheel is supposed to bring a good harvest if all wheels released roll straight down the hill. Lügde in North Rhine-Westphalia is particularly famous for its burning wheel rolling.

5. Search for goodies from the Easter Bunny

Photo: DPA

You may already be familiar with this tradition, but the idea of an egg-hiding Easter Bunny actually came from the Germans first. There are many different theories for how the myth came about, and in some regions there were also Easter Foxes and Easter Cranes in the past.

SEE ALSO: The very deutsch origins of the Easter Bunny

6. Eat a lamb

Photo: DPA

The lamb in Christianity is a symbol of Jesus Christ, as he was the sacrificial “Lamb of God” sent to die for the sins of humanity.

So you might also see lamb on the menu for Easter. And some Germans also bake cakes in the form of a lamb.

7. Paint some eggs

A girl painting an ostrich egg. Photo: DPA

This is also a very traditional German custom. In fact, the oldest surviving decorated egg dates back to the fourth century AD, and was discovered in a Romano-Germanic sarcophagus near Worms in Rhineland-Palatinate.

8. Get an 'Easter tree'

Photo: DPA

Christmas isn't the only holiday in Germany involving a tree. Germans also like to decorate their foliage with colourful hanging eggs in time for Easter in what is known as an Osterbaum – Easter tree.

9. Fight with your eggs

One game that some German families enjoy playing on Easter is Ostereiertitschen or Eierklopfen – egg tapping – though it has different names in different regions.
The basic premise is that two players each hold a hard-boiled egg in hand and with it try to crack their opponent's egg as much as possible without damaging their own.
10. Go for a walk
Germans also use all their time off over the long Easter weekend to get a bit of exercise in der Natur. The public holiday on Easter Monday is often the best time to do this.
This article was originally published on April 11th, 2017 and updated on April 15th, 2019.
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EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany’s youth culture pass

Young people turning 18 in Germany this year are getting a voucher 'birthday gift' to enjoy culture. Here's why and how they can use it.

EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany's youth culture pass

What’s Germany’s culture pass?

The KulturPass – or culture pass – is a bit like a voucher that young people in Germany can use to buy tickets to cultural events, or even products like books or sheet music.

Those turning 18 in 2023 – estimated to be about 750,000 people – can get their hands on the pass. They will have €200 credit that they can spend on a special culture pass platform over two years for event tickets and other cultural offers. 

It’s worth noting that the digital pass, which launches in mid-June, is available to all young people living in Germany, even if they don’t hold German citizenship.

How is it given out?

The pass won’t be handed out automatically – those who are eligible have to sign up and prove their identity and age.

Cultural venues can also sign up to sell their tickets or entrance cards via the Kulturpass app and website, so they can get a boost to their sales by promoting it on this central platform.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Why is Germany doing this?

The move follows similar youth culture projects by other countries, including France, Italy and Spain. 

The German government initiative has two major aims: the first is to give young people an opportunity to get out and experience live culture in a way they weren’t able to during the pandemic.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth said last year that she hoped the KulturPass would get “young people go out and experience culture, see how diverse and inspiring it is”.

The second aim is to help give a boost to cultural institutions like theatres, galleries, live music venues and similar businesses. 

The culture industry was one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, due to the Covid shutdowns put in place by the German government to combat the spread of the virus. 

Venues have struggled to encourage people to break out of their pandemic habits and get out to live events again.

What kind of events can young people go to?

The emphasis is on live events to get people away from their home and to give the arts scene a boost. Theatres and concert venues will likely be a popular choice, but also independent bookshops, art galleries, and small business cinemas.

Amazon, Spotify, big chain movie theatres – those kinds of vendors are excluded. So think local, think independent, think higher culture like opera, theatre, and concerts.

Are there plans to roll it out to other age groups?

At the moment, this is a pilot project for people turning 18 this year. Depending on how it goes, the government may be looking at plans to roll such a pass out for 16 and 17 year-olds as well.

To hear more on this story, tune into our Germany in Focus podcast episode released on Friday, March 26th.