WIESBADEN, Germany -- As the dark days of winter slowly come to an end, you will see more and more events in Germany that are held outside. Springtime is a time of awakening, which Germans traditionally greet with joyful dances, traditional songs, Easter markets and the so-called Easter Fires. Traces from times long gone hint at the belief that humans tried to draw the sun's warming rays down to earth to scare away the cold and dark days of winter.
Easter Fires have been around in Germany for centuries. Traditionally, they can be found in Christian communities where people gather to light a big bonfire on the evening before Easter Sunday. If you live in a community where the local church bells announce the time, or the beginning of a church service, you may wonder why you don't hear the bells during the days before Easter Sunday.
When asked, German children may tell you that they fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. In fact, the bells fall silent on Thursday before Easter to remember the time of Christ's suffering and death.
However, they come back to life when people gather during the night before Easter, to light a big Easter fire, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
In earlier days, people would extinguish every light in their houses before going to the Easter Fire. Then, they would light their torches, to bring "new life" to their homes.
Although the Easter bunny delivers and hides colored eggs in the yards of German families, did you know that in some parts of Germany, the Easter Fox or the Easter Rooster delivers the eggs? This may have resulted from the tradition of dying the Easter eggs with onions or onion skins, which gave the eggs a reddish-brown tint, which may look like a fox or a brown rooster. However, most Germans have adopted the bunny as their traditional egg deliverer. Hence, many German families bake a cake in the form of a bunny or a lamb -- as a symbol for Christ -- on Easter Sunday.
After an adventurous egg hunt through the yard -- with mom and dad desperately trying to remember where they hid all the eggs -- many adults continue with another very German Easter tradition: Easter Egg Shooting. Germans have the opportunity to discover their inner William Tell at a local shooting range. In this open-to-all, fun filled Easter Egg Shooting event, people shoot air rifles at small targets and win a colored egg every time they hit the target.
Easter in Germany is a time when many German festivals and markets come back to life. It is the end of the Lenten season -- so you can finish eating the rest of your Fasching candy -- and the unofficial beginning of spring. Take a look at your local community's events calendar and you will notice that there will begin to be fewer weekends of peace and quiet in Germany.