Learning Words for German Easter Traditions

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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


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


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.

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.


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.

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.