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A German Easter - Ostern

Frohe Ostern! Happy Easter!

Easter Customs and Traditions
in German-Speaking Europe

You are here:
  German Easter Customs > Easter Facts > Easter Vocabulary

Also see: Osterkarten - Easter Cards - Send a free German card!

Main Celebrations and Customs Menu

Also see our Feiertag-Kalender, a calendar of
official holidays in German-speaking countries.

Ostern (Easter)

Easter in German-Speaking Europe
The Germanic celebration of Easter (Ostern in German) is very much like that in most of the Christian world. It features the same fertility and spring-related icons—eggs, bunnies, flowers—and many of the same Easter customs. The three major German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) are predominantly Christian and Easter is an important time for both Catholics and Protestants in the German-speaking lands. The art of decorating hollowed-out eggs (ausgeblasene Eier) for Easter is an Austrian and German tradition.

Der Osterhase mit einem
buntbemalten Ei.

Origins of Easter
The Easter celebration goes back to the earliest days of the Christian church. But the date of this festival has been controversial from the very beginning. Even the origin of the name of the most important celebration in the Christian calendar is unclear. But there is agreement on the fact that, like several other Christian holidays, most Easter customs can be traced back to pre-Christian, pagan rites and celebrations related to the arrival of spring. It is not by accident that Easter features such symbols of fertility as the egg and the rabbit, aka the Easter bunny (der Osterhase).

The Easter celebration (das Osterfest) takes on both religious and secular forms. The Christian religious celebration is the most important day in the church calendar, reflecting Christianity's very beginnings in the Resurrection of Jesus. In the western church, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (die Tagundnachtgleiche). (Eastern Orthodox Easter follows the same formula, but with the Julian calendar, so the date can fall one, four, or five weeks later.) Because this "movable feast" depends on phases of the moon (Mondphasen, Mondwechsel), Easter can be observed between March 22 and April 25. In 2008 Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) falls on March 23. (2009: April 12)

For even more about the German Easter celebration see the Easter Glossary page and our dual-language Easter Facts and Timeline on the next page.

NEXT > Easter Facts/Timeline + Links

MORE > Easter Glossary - English-German

Related Pages

Easter Glossary
An annotated English-German glossary of Easter terms.

Easter Cards
Send a free Easter card in German! Greeting cards in German for many occasions.

Celebrations and Customs
Our main holidays page.

English-German glossaries on a variety of topics, from your Guide.

Wort des Tages
What's today's German word of the day?

German Newsletters
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German for Beginners
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