On Easter fires, egg battles and cold swimming events
Easter is just around the corner! This year, it will be celebrated from 19 April (Good Friday) to 22 April (Easter Monday). And how exactly do Germany, Austria and Switzerland celebrate it? Discover Germany takes a closer look – so that you can look forward to some curiosities of the special kind!
In all three countries (and most other countries that celebrate Easter) the public holiday of Good Friday marks the start of the Easter weekend. On this date, Jesus got crucified, according to the Bible. Many people, however, also celebrate the Maundy Thursday (18 April) which commemorates the foot washing and Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles – it is not a public holiday, however.
People all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland tend to celebrate Easter with some well-known traditions, such as decorating some Easter eggs, Easter egg hunts or decorating their houses with cute Easter bunnies. However, there are far more exciting customs all over the DACH region so we wanted to find out more.
A quite extraordinary Easter custom from Germany is the omnipresent Easter fires. These large public bonfires are held in cities and villages across the country to welcome the spring and are usually a meeting place for young and old alike. Expect a huge amount of alcoholic beverages, tasty foodstuffs like ‘bratwurst’ and a fun evening warming up at the huge fires.
Another tradition that might not be known in other countries is the ‘Osterbrunnen’ (Easter fountain). Most popular in the more Catholic southern Germany, the many fountains that can be found on public squares are decorated by local clubs with arches of evergreen and colourful Easter eggs. The most famous of these fountains is the one in Bavaria’s Bieberbach. It has not only won multiple Guinness World records for its decoration but it also attracts over 30,000 tourists annually around Easter. If you are interested in visiting, there are special tours as well.
One of Austria’s more curious Easter traditions is the ‘Eierpecken’, which describes a fun Easter egg battle during the Easter breakfast or brunch. While coloured hard-boiled eggs are served alongside a cake in the shape of a lamb, a battle ensues. Each player holds their egg with the tip pointing up and prepares for the battle. Then, the first player starts hitting another egg tip with his own egg with the goal of breaking the shell of the other egg. The winner then proceeds around the table and tries his luck with other players. The winner is the person that is left with an intact egg at then end. Sounds quite a bit of fun, right?
A different Easter custom in Austria that has almost disappeared over the years is egg scratching. It describes an old, special scratch technique with which to decorate eggs with beautiful patterns and ornaments. This almost forgotten custom is originally a Slavonic Easter tradition but it has been kept alive in Austria’s Stinatz by ‘Burgenland Croats’ and their descendants after the Second World War.
In Switzerland, on the other hand, you can find ‘Chlefeli’ all over the country around Easter. The term describes two small wooden boards which can be hung on both sides of the middle finger. When shaken, they make a distinct, rhythmical sound which can be heard everywhere in the villages of Brunnen and Schwyz from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. The instrument may actually originate from Spain or the Middle Ages when lepers and others that could not communicate as well were required to announce themselves.
Last but not least, Switzerland has yet another fun Easter custom on offer: the Easter Monday Blue-Egg-Swim in Lake Greifensee on 22 April. As the title suggests, families and individuals go Easter egg hunting in the lake on Easter Monday in temperatures between five and 15 degrees Celsius. How does it work exactly? Participants will swim around 20 metres to the diving platform, before getting out of the water, grabbing the egg and returning it safely to shore. The crowd will cheer you on and other rewards are egg soup, other tasty soups and much more! If you are interested in joining, just turn up on the day as there is no need to register.
TEXT BY NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO © PIXABAY
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