The first time I saw one, I thought someone missed Christmas, and wanted to relive the experience of hanging ornaments on a tree, even if there weren’t any green trees and it was early April.
Then I saw another, and another. Each time, the trees and their decorations (and number of ornaments) varied.
What am I talking about? The Easter egg tree of course! It’s called Ostereierbaum in German and the tradition for hanging mouth-blown eggs from the branches of trees and bushes is centuries old. Like many of the traditions around Easter, the rebirth of life (symbolized by the egg and the bare branches) is being celebrated.
For some reason, I really enjoy how the same holidays are celebrated in different ways in difference places. I saw it at Christmas, but since many of the Christmas traditions I know in the US (Christmas trees, wreaths, many songs) come from Germany, the differences were not so great. While the Easter Bunny also comes from the German Lutherans, I had never heard of the Ostereierbaum or the Osterfeuer before.
Apparently, it is also tradition to host a bonfire on the night before Easter. Called the Osterfeuer, it has pre-Christian origins, but its symbolism of chasing away the winter and rebirth as the ashes of the fire scatter over the fields and fertilize the earth made it an Easter tradition. In a religious sense, it is part of the closing of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. However, in Hamburg, Berlin, and many other German cities, it is set up as a secular celebration for the citizens of the city to meet and enjoy a sense of community. In Hamburg alone, 7 separate fires were set up at different points all over the city, each with different audiences in mind. The main idea is that all the “bad spirits” that gathered in winter can be scared away.
In writing this, I realize how practical many of these celebrations are. All the traditions that are connected with holidays originated with a particular purpose. I think part of my fascination with seeing how others celebrate holidays has to do with the way it makes me look things up to understand more about their traditions, and mine, originated.
At any rate, the last Easter tradition I wanted to write about is the Osterhase (in German, a Hase is a Hare, but in English we think of it as a bunny). In Germany, the hare plays much the same role as St. Nikolas or the Christkind at Christmas. The Hare determines whether children were good over Lent and whether they deserve the presents that the Hare has brought with him.
I found many representations of the Osterhase while here, and I had to remind myself every time that the idea was not that the rabbit look cute, rather, it had a serious role to perform and by virtue of being a hare, would not look as cuddly as a bunny.
Made me wonder if the English are a bit soft (just kidding!).
The tradition of the chocolate Easter bunny originates with someone who took the idea of the Easter bunny and combined it with the tasty confection known as chocolate. I don’t know where it comes from , but it’s a reason to look forward to Easter every year.
This was my first Easter away from home, but there was enough to observe that I didn’t feel like I missed anything except the traditional lamb for dinner, and my family. It was good.