Many rites and customs came into being at Easter.
Easter fires are lit on the evening of the 1st Easter day on fields and heights and shine far into the country.
Easter games have been performed in many places since ancient times. Always the content of the games is the victory of the awakening life over the darkness of wintertime. The Christian mystery play of the resurrection of Christ fits seamlessly into the pre-Christian spring customs that celebrated the awakening of nature with new life.
A number of Easter symbols, such as Easter eggs and Easter bunny, already existed in ancient times. Many were taken over by Christianity and are still today an important part of Easter.
1. The Easter egg
The dominant symbol of our Easter is still the Easter egg.
Eggs are said to have been given away and eaten red as fertility symbols at the spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.
The church consecration of eggs can already be detected in the 4th century. In this time eggs were already painted colorfully, as finds from the area of Worms show.
To distinguish them from the fresh eggs, plants were added to the water. The juice of onions, spinach or beetroot provided the first colourful Easter eggs.
Artfully painted eggs first appeared in the 13th century.
The egg is the source of life itself and stands as a symbol for the development of life. Cooking them at Easter probably originates from their use as currency in the 12th century. Since one traditionally paid one's debts on Maundy Thursday, many eggs were saved up until this day and preserved by cooking.
The Easter Egg today
The Easter Egg is a hen's egg, mostly coloured with natural plant colours, sometimes painted with motifs, which is traditionally given away or eaten at Easter.
Blown and often elaborately painted or pasted eggs are used as decoration at Easter. Famous for their pomp and also expensive are the jewel-studded Easter eggs of Fabergé.
2. The Easter bunny
The hiding of Easter eggs dates back to the 17th century. The church consecration of red Easter eggs was first attested in 1553. The Easter bunny is a rabbit in the customs, which paints eggs to Easter and hides in the garden.
The hare is a sign of fertility.
Both the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite and the Germanic goddess of fertility Ostera were assigned a hare as a sacred animal. First evidence for the Easter bunny from the year 1678 is handed down by Georg Franck von Franckenau, a professor of medicine from Heidelberg. More than three hundred years ago, the custom originated in Alsace, the Palatinate and the Upper Rhine. In Zurich, the Easter bunny has been handed down from old records as an egg bringer. Also the termination of Easter allows a connection to the rabbit. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday of the spring full moon and the rabbit is considered the moon animal.
However, the Easter bunny is not the only bearer of Easter eggs.
In Schleswig-Holstein, Upper Bavaria and Austria the rooster, in the Westphalian or Hanoverian region the fox, in Switzerland the cuckoo, in Thuringia the stork was regarded as the bearer of the eggs.
In German folklore there are many small, mostly funny verses about the Easter bunny, like for example:
Bottom tree in green grass
Sits a little Easterhaz'!
Cleans the beard and sharpens the ear,
Make a male look out.
Then jump away with one sentence
And a little cheeky sparrow
Now look what's there.
And what is it? One Easter egg!
Easter bunny, come to me,
come to our garden!
Bring us eggs, two, three, four,
do not let us wait so long!
Place them in the green grass,
lovely, good Osterhas`.
Lieber guter Osterhas'
Bring something to children.
Red, green, yellow eggs,
for a nice Easter party.
Behind birches, behind beeches,
we want to look for the eggs.