GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — When it comes to celebrations in Germany, colorfully decorated trees are not just for the Christmas season.
Roughly four weeks before Easter, which falls on April 17, 2022, handcrafted eggs dangle from the branches of birch trees — symbolizing new life and fertility. Towns of all sizes are painted in a sea of pastel.
Public wells and fountains are elaborately adorned with greenery, garland and florid Easter eggs to welcome the spring season and offer thanks for life-giving water. Each town seeks to make its decorations bigger and brighter than the next, and one local village located 18 km south of Vilseck holds bragging rights.
In 2005, the small town of Sulzbach-Rosenberg entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the most eggs used to decorate an “Osterbrunnen,” or Easter fountain. The townspeople managed to hang a total of 16,500 eggs, beating out the previous record of 11,600 held by Baden-Wuerttemberg. This particular fountain is available for viewing from April 10 through May 1, 2022. For other Osterbrunnen locations within the county of Amberg-Sulzbacher, view this map.
While the ornamentation comes early, the official Easter holiday in Germany begins on Gruendonnerstag (Maudy Thursday). Gruendonnerstag translates to “Green Thursday,” and it is believed to be the day on which the Last Supper was held. It is tradition to clean your house thoroughly on this day — a custom possibly linked to the preparation of a Passover Feast. Furthermore, green foods such as spinach, kale, cress, leek, chives and other herbs, are traditionally eaten on this day.
In both American and German cultures, Good Friday is a day when Christians reflect on the crucifixion of Christ. But in Germany, the day is known as both Karfreitag meaning “sorrowful Friday” and Stiller Freitag meaning “quiet Friday.” Additionally, in Germany both Good Friday and Ostermontag (Easter Monday) are national holidays.
While there are apparent differences, many other German and American traditions overlap throughout the multi-day celebration. Easter eggs are dyed and children anticipate a visit from the Easter Bunny, or “Osterhase.” Outside of a COVID-19 environment, Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday) brings church services, family gatherings complete with culinary overindulgence, rousing Easter egg hunts and baskets filled to the brim with chocolate and candy.
One uniquely German experience is the Saturday night bonfire — a symbol for the sun as the giver of life. Additionally, braided sweet bread in the shape of a wreath, or “Osterbrot,” can be found in German bakeries around the holiday.
But America holds her head high as the birthplace of the infamous chick-shaped marshmallow treat, because nothing says “Happy Easter” or “Frohe Ostern” quite like a candy Peep.
Editor’s Note: This article, originally published in March 2018, has been updated to reflect 2022 facts and figures.