German Easter Traditions
Written by Nour Alsharif
Easter is almost here, and with the holiday come many traditions used to celebrate this holiday worldwide! Germany has its own traditions that go along with the holiday – including some unique ones and some that will be familiar to Americans!
Germans hold celebrations during the first week of Lent season, called Fasching or Karneval. Enjoying yummy doughnuts is an important German tradition during Karneval time. The doughnuts are mostly jam-filled and they are named Berliner, Krapfen, or Pfannkuchen, depending on where you live. In the past, the doughnuts were made and consumed on Fat Tuesday, right before people started their fast during Lent. However, now the bakeries make them available for weeks around Easter so people can enjoy them even during Lent!
In Germany the Easter bunny, or the Osterhase, will deliver eggs during Easter time. The Osterhase delivering eggs is believed to symbolize eternity. Many Germans also set up a small bouquet if inside or a small tree if outside called an Osterstrauss, and decorate it with hand-painted Easter eggs.
The hand-painted Easter egg tradition is still practiced in Germany, specifically by a small Slavic minority in eastern Germany known as the “Sorbs,” who have passed this tradition down among families for generations. In this region egg painters gather in the Sunday market to display their artistic egg pieces. The art is created by dipping the eggs into a color bath, then using fine knives to scratch delicate patterns on the surface of the eggshell. The patience of the craftsmen and the time spent perfecting these eggs make this tradition unique.
In Germany fire is an important symbol for celebrating Easter. It is seen as a symbol of light and signifies the end of winter. In addition, fire symbolizes Jesus Christ, as the light of the world. Either candles or bonfires are used to begin the Easter celebrations on Good Friday or Black (Holy) Saturday. Unfortunately, most of the religious meaning behind the Easter Fire has been lost in modern times, but Germans have managed to preserve this legacy.
If you are interested in trying out a German Easter tradition for yourself, try making this recipe for Bunter Osterkuchen (colorful Easter Cake), a spiced carrot cake decorated with marzipan Easter eggs and sugar flowers, which would make a perfect dessert for Easter Sunday. Viel Spaß!
- 10 ounces ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- peel of one lemon
- 2 medium-sized carrots
- 2 small apples
- 6 fresh eggs
- 10 ounces sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 ounces marzipan
- 2-1/2 ounces confectioner’s sugar
- red and yellow food coloring
- 1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
- egg white from 1 egg
- 5 ounces confectioner’s sugar
- green decorative leaves
- decorative sugar flowers
Mix together the almonds, bread crumbs, cornstarch, baking powder cinnamon and lemon peel. Peel the carrots and the apples and grate them finely.
Separate the eggs. Beat together the egg yolks with 4 ounces of the sugar. Beat the egg whites together with the salt and the rest of the sugar. Mix the grated carrots and apple with the egg yolk and carefully fold in the egg white mixture and the almond mixture.
Line a 10 inch spring form with baking paper and pour in the batter. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minute. Remove from the oven, loosen the cake from the form and allow to cool on a baking tray.
For the decoration, break up the marzipan and knead it together with the confectioners’ sugar, divide into 3 portions and color each portion pink, yellow and brown (using the cocoa powder for brown). Place the marzipan between two layers of plastic wrap, roll out and cut out Easter eggs shapes and branches.
For the glaze mix the egg white with the confectioners’ sugar. Put the glaze in a plastic sandwich bag and cut a tiny corner. Use the glaze to decorate the marzipan eggs with fine lines.
Sprinkle the cake generously with confectioners sugar and decorate with the marzipan eggs and sugar flowers and leaves.