There are lots of traditions in Germany for each festivity and especially for Easter. That makes it quite difficult to decide which traditions to present to you. We decided on these ones:
Easter is a Christian tradition – celebrating the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus – but the Easter Fire is a pre-Christian, a Saxon tradition for which there are several explanations:
It might be that the Saxons believed the seasons were like God-like creatures and that, around the time of Easter, Spring was battling with Winter. So the Saxons lit the fires to help Spring chase away the darkness and dreariness of the colder season. Another idea is that the fires served as a symbol of fertility: The ashes were scattered over fields and meadows and thereby fertilised the lands – helping the farmers in their work.
Nowadays, the Easter Fires are lit to bring the community together and have a pleasant night with special snacks and drinks.
In Lusatia, located within the Saxony and Brandenburg, the Sorbs – an ethnic minority – are living that have a very distinct Easter culture and lots of Saxons travel there to experience it first-hand. Their traditions are closely linked to both catholic and Slavic traditions.
The Easter Rides are a famous procession on Easter Sunday which celebrates the resurrection of Christ. The riders – all male – wear the traditional costume of the Sorbs and their horses are richly decorated as well. Flag bearers ride in front together with men who carry a cross and a statue of Christ. The processions lead from one village to another and need to be coordinated so that they never cross a group of riders from another village.
Another well-known tradition is richly decorated Easter eggs. While most German families like to paint eggs with mostly water colours which then look quite colourful – the Sorbs have special patterns and methods to create elaborate designs. For example, they use hot wax and apply it with a thin stylus on the shell.
More information on the schedule of the Easter Rides can be found here: www.sorben.org/die-strecken-und-zeiten-der-osterreiter.html
Text: S. Schückel