What is Easter like in Germany? Traditional and fun. Our favorite? The Osterbrunnen or Franconian Easter Fountains.
Easter in Germany is in many ways similar to what I was used to in the United States, however there is one tradition that is completely different, and that is decorating the town fountains with Easter eggs.
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What to Expect in this Article
- Typical German Easter Traditions
- Town Fountains Decorated with Easter Eggs called Osterbrunnen
- Map of the Best Towns with Easter Egg Fountains
- Where to Stay During Your Exploration of the Fountains
German Easter Traditions Similar to the U.S.
Most German Easter traditions are very similar to the ones we celebrate in the U.S. such as:
- Eating chocolate animals, especially bunnies
- Eating lamb for Easter dinner
- Decorating Easter eggs and having an Easter Egg hunt
Uniquely German Easter Traditions
However, there are a few traditions that differ from what we are used to. For instance, Germans like to decorate their houses with Easter trees. The “tree” is normally a bare branch stuck in a garden pot. Then it’s decorated with beautiful wooden or blown-out Easter Eggs that have been meticulously painted. These trees are usually shown through the front window of the home.
Another tradition, especially with children, is playing a fighting game with the colored hard-boiled eggs. Two people try to smack the other, cracking the shell. It’s all in good fun.
Many dorfs and villages will hold a bonfire over the weekend as well. This harkens back to pagan times, and ushering in the new spring.
Easter lasts a little longer in Germany. It begins on Gruendonnerstag, or Maundy Thursday. Because it has the modern day word for “green” in it, they like to eat green foods on the Thursday before Easter. Most people will just add some greens like spinach or lettuce, but many folks love to eat the traditional Frankfurter Green sauce with some hard boiled eggs. (source)
However, there is a tradition that I truly love above all others, that of decorating the town fountains. This tradition began in Frankische Schweiz, and since Jim and I lived there for a couple of years, we just had to go out and find the most beautiful fountains.
Osterbrunnen – Franconian Easter Fountains
What are Osterbrunnen?
During the Easter season, the townspeople decorate the city center water fountains with pine boughs and decorated Easter Eggs. This tradition began in the area of Bavaria called Frankische Schweiz, but it has since spread to other parts of the country as well.
The wells are decorated and left standing for about 3 weeks. Many are built up on Palm Sunday, and if you get the chance to see them putting them up, it’s quite a spectacle. (source)
How Did Decorating Town Fountains Begin?
How did this tradition begin? Many say it harkens back to a more pagan time when people worshipped items from nature. The wells would be decorated with eggs, paying tribute to water as an essential element in life and to eggs as a symbol of fertility.
All the Easter wells, or Osterbrunnen, that we came across had similar qualities. The townspeople had fashioned wire supports for pine garlands, in the shape of arches, which resemble a crown. On these arches, there were strings of colored eggs.
Some of the eggs were plastic, but many were hollowed out eggs. All had been decorated or hand painted. These were strung in groups of color; blue or yellow were very popular strands. Often other elements were intertwined with the eggs.
Many of the arches were topped by a crown or cross. There were prominent or larger eggs sporting important Easter symbols, such as lambs or bunnies. Some had Easter baskets, many had chickens, and one place even had larger-than-life straw bunnies delivering eggs from their bicycles.
What is the Best Way to See the Osterbrunnen?
We highly recommend taking a weekend during the season to rent a car and see what decorated fountains you can find.
This is what happened to us. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, and one of my fellow teachers just yelled at me in passing to go searching out the decorated Easter wells over the weekend. After finding out what they were, the challenge was accepted, and we had a great time. We spent the night in a small hotel, ate a fresh trout lunch and really enjoyed our time exploring the Franconian countryside.
Where are the Osterbrunnen (Map to the Easter Fountains)?
Where to Stay
There are plenty of small inns and hotels all over Franconia, and truthfully you can’t go wrong. We love the smaller, family run hotels that have restaurants. We’ve found that by the end of a day’s touring and photographing, we just like to go downstairs to eat our dinner and have a good beer.
Here are a few places we would recommend:
Zoellner Landgasthof – This small, comfy hotel is in a traditional half-timbered house in the countryside east of Bamberg. The complimentary breakfast is hearty and the staff is really helpful and friendly. Ask them where some of their favorite Osterbrunnen can be found.
Hotel Schuberths am Schloss in Buttenheim – A charming, friendly hotel set in a garden next to a castle. Enjoy the great breakfast and then walk down to the Levi Strauss museum.
Gasthaus Alte Post in Obertrubach. This half-timbered hotel has a great restaurant on site where they make their own sausages. Great beer and fresh bratwurst? That’s my kind of place!
Easter is one of our favorite things about spring in Germany because of these unique traditions. We especially love taking a short overnight weekend road trip to try and find the most beautifully adorned town fountains. There’s nothing like traveling through the countryside all day village-hopping, then cozying up for a good meal at our hotel restaurant at night.
If you decide to go fountain hunting this Easter, let us know how it went!
Have you ever been to Franconia? Have you seen the Osterbrunnen? If not, there is still time. They usually stay up for about two weeks after Easter.
What Easter traditions do you celebrate?
Frohe Ostern or Happy Easter everybody!