I have now been living in Germany for almost 3 months and I have to say, they have been 3 of the best months of my life (so far!). I have met loads of lovely people and had the chance to enjoy many new experiences. One of the best new experiences I have had happened quite recently. A German friend of mine invited me to join her and her family for Easter weekend and to experience a traditional German Easter celebration. I had a lot of fun and it was very different to what I would have experienced had I been back home in the UK.
I guess I should have learned from what I know about how Germans celebrate Christmas, the Christmas markets, all of the amazing food…I could go on and on! Germans don’t do celebrations by half measures. If something is worth celebrating, it is worth going all out for. So whereas in the UK we might give each other a couple of chocolate eggs and the more religious people might go to church, in Germany Easter involves so much more.
I arrived at my friend’s house late on the Saturday afternoon and the celebrations began almost immediately. First on the agenda, the baking of the Osterlamm. This is a cake which is baked in a mold so that it ends up in the shape of a lamb lying in the grass. I had a piece of the cake on the Sunday afternoon and I have to say, it is as delicious as it looks.
After baking the Osterlamm, the next job was to paint some eggs so that they could hang on the Osterbaum (literally Easter Tree). This is usually done by children and then parents keep them for the years to come and create a collection of eggs showing the child’s artistic development over the years. I may not be a child anymore but I certainly have the mentality of one and so the chance to get creative and do something I’ve never done before was something I jumped at. The first job is to punch a hole in the top and the bottom of the egg and to blow the insides out of the egg. the eggs then have to be washed, presumably to make sure that those which are kept for decades don’t start to smell rather peculiar. It seems you can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl because I painted one of my eggs to look like a Creme Egg. Anyone from the UK will know that these are the most delicious thing anyone can eat at Easter and I would recommend that anyone who has never eaten one before finds one and tries it.
Another way of decorating eggs is to hard boil them and the put them into glasses of dye. This then makes the eggs come out different colours. We also added leaves to the eggs when we dyed them so that when you peeled the leaf away there was a space on the egg shell which was still white. The different types of leaves made some really nice patterns.
Saturday evening was pretty quiet and everyone went to bed pretty early because we had to get up at 4.30am the next day in order to go to the Easter service in the local church. The service was a wonderful experience and well worth getting up even before the sun had risen. It started with a bonfire outside the church around which everyone gathered and the first reading was read and the first hymn sung as everyone looked into the glowing fire. It was lovely to look around and see everyone’s faces lit up in a wonderful orange glow and the peaceful expressions on everyone’s faces as they just enjoyed coming together to mark the event. We then moved into the church where more readings were read and more hymns sung and then the service leaders came around with the flame from the large Easter candle in the middle of the church and proceeded to light the candles that each person had been given at the start of the service. This made for a beautiful atmosphere as more and more candles flickered into life. It was a bit scary I must admit, when I suddenly realised that there was something I was supposed to say once they had lit my candle. I ended up just copying the person before me and that worked out fine but it did make me a bit flustered. My German is OK but if I don’t know what to say how can I say it? The next part of the service involved taking Holy Communion, which was yet another new experience for me as it is only the Catholic church which partakes in Holy Communion in England (correct me if I’m wrong). I shan’t describe it as most people will have either encountered it themselves or studied it at school but it was interesting to get to join in myself.
After the service was finished we then went to a local church hall and had an Easter breakfast with the whole congregation. This consisted of hard boiled eggs (also dyed different colours as described earlier), Osterbrot, which is a kind of sweet bread with mixed dried fruit in it, and juice or a hot drink.
The rest of the morning was spent catching up on the sleep we had lost and then it was time for the Easter Egg hunt. In Germany they hunt for their Easter baskets, which usually contain chocolate and a small gift. It was a lot of fun searching for the baskets and my friend’s family had even gone out of their way to make me an Easter basket as well, for which I am very grateful.
The Easter Sunday evening was spent around our own Osterfeuer (Easter fire) chatting and laughing with friends whilst cooking Stockbrot (a kind of bread with bacon interwoven with the dough) over the fire. A wonderful way to end a truly fantastic weekend.
Why have I written an article about German Easter traditions and my Easter experiences? There are two reasons. The first is that I find it fascinating to learn about other cultures and I’m sure other people do too. The other reason is to help make a point. It is so easy to get caught up in day to day life and to let opportunities pass you by. It may only be a small thing, such as meeting up with a friend for an hour, or it may be something bigger, like getting the chance to really experience life in a foreign country by diving in an getting involved in everything. I’m not saying change who you are, if you don’t like going out clubbing, don’t but make sure you don’t let things that you would feel comfortable doing pass you by. It took going to a foreign country to show me this but I am certainly going to take this lesson back home with me too. How many times have I said that I didn’t have time to visit someone who lives just an hour away? How many times have I passed up an opportunity because it will always come around again. The truly telling thing is that in the 3 months I have been out here I have probably seen more of Germany than I have of the UK in over 20 years, that has to change.