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Vocabulary for the Traditions of Easter in Germany

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/29/2013

Germany has a rich variety of religious and secular Easter traditions. Learn the words and say: Frohe Ostern! First, we learn about eggs.

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    Easter Eggs

    Eggs play an important role in German Easter traditions.

    Ostereier (n) - Easter eggs

    Ostereier suchen - hunting for Easter eggs

    Ostereier verstecken - hiding Easter eggs

    Ostereier färben - coloring Easter eggs

    The custom of boiling and coloring eggs has a historic as well as a religious background. During the 40 days of Lent, people were not allowed to eat eggs. People of the Middle Ages, which knew no refrigeration, preserved the eggs by boiling them in vinegar and then coloring them with vegetable dye to show they were already boiled. Throwing eggs away because they wouldn't keep was a sin.

    Fastenzeit (f) - Lent

    Essig (m) - vinegar

    Mittelalter (n) - Middle Ages

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    The Easterhare, not the rabbit, is the purveyor of Easter eggs in German tradition. He carries the eggs in

    Die Kiepe - an open basket worn on the back

    and puts them in die

    Osternester - Easter nests

    Die Kinder - the children

    Laufen - run

    Finden - find

    There are many legends which explain why the hare is a symbol for Easter. Here is just one: In centuries past, Holy Thursday was the day when debts needed to be paid. A debtor who was able to pay all was then free 'like a hare' and could run without fear of the dogs hunting the hare.

    Schuldner (m) - debtor

    Gründonnerstag (m) - Holy Thursday

    Zahlen - to pay

    Hund (m) - dog

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    The Easterwalk is another tradition. It's most famously reflected in Johann Wolfgand von Goethe's poem 'Der Osterspaziergang', which forms part of Faust I.

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    Easterfire and Easterwheels

    Osterfeuer (n) - Easterfire

    Osterräder (n) - Easterwheels

    Stroh (n) - straw

    Böse Geister (f) - evil spirits

    Hexen (f) - witches

    Vertreiben - to ward off

    Holz (n) - wood

    trockene Zweige (f) - dried branches

    Scheiterhaufen (m) - stake

    Both rituals have a long tradition in Germany. Wood and dried branches collected during the winter are piled up on Easter Saturday and set on fire during the night to Easter Sunday. The purpose is to chase away the winter and to ward off witches and other evil spirits which might threaten spring. In some regions, huge wheels are made from straw, reinforced with iron, set on fire and rolled down hills.

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    Osterwasser (n) - Easter water

    Ostertau (m) - Easter dew

    Fruchtbarkeit (f) - fertility

    Water collected from a spring on Easter Sunday is supposed to have fertility properties if a woman bathes in it. Even walking on dew is believed to have that effect.

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    Easter Meals

    Ostermahlzeiten (f) - Easter meals

    Osterfrühstück (n) - Easter breakfast

    Hefezopf (m) - braided bread

    No Easter breakfast is complete without loads of boiled and colored eggs and a special bread, called 'Hefezopf', with or without raisins, but always thickly covered with butter.

    The main meal at Easter revolves around lamb.

    Lammbraten (m) - roasted lamb

    Lammkeule (f) - leg of lamb

    Lammkotelett (n) - chop of lamb

    Preferred vegetables in Germany are:

    Rosenkohl (m) - Brussels sprouts

    Grünkohl (m) - cabbage

    Gekochte Kartoffeln (f) - boiled potatoes

    Desert is often vanilla ice cream, which is served with whipped cream and a special Easter Liqueur, called Eierlikör.

    Table, house and garden are decorated with Easter themes, depicting eggs and hares.