german easter vocabulary

10 Fun, Fruitful Vocabulary Words for Making the Most of German Easter

The number of practicing Christians in Germany is on the decline.

But around Easter, you certainly wouldn’t know it.

Although many Americans celebrate Christ’s resurrection for one Sunday, with more observant Christians celebrating Holy Week as well, US Easter celebrations don’t even approach Germany’s embrace of the events surrounding the holiday.

Celebrating Easter in Germany is even a bigger deal than celebrating Christmas there!

And after all, like the Christmas tree, plenty of Easter symbolism and myth is tied to Germany and the German language—from the name of the holiday itself, to that adorable bunny that brings eggs and candy for children all over the world.

Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry.

If you happen to be in Germany during Easter, just read on, and you’ll no longer be confused about why you have a random Monday off in May, or why everyone’s suddenly decorating trees with eggs.

No matter where you are, though, this post will help you pick up some useful vocab and get valuable insight into German culture.

Either way, you’ll learn something and have the chance to enjoy the German take on this special time of year!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


So, How Many Holidays Does Easter Actually Consist of in Germany, Anyway?

Remember, Easter in Germany is not just Easter Sunday.

In Germany, you can expect to hear about all of the following:

  • Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday) in Germany is fairly similar to the day in America. Children eat chocolates and candies. Religious families attend church services and then enjoy a big holiday meal.
  • Ostermontag (Easter Monday) falls the day after Easter, and is a bank holiday, with all shops and public institutions closed.
  • Karfreitag (Good Friday), the Friday before Easter, commemorates the day when Christians believe Jesus died on the cross. Called Karfreitag in German, this day is typically quieter than other celebratory days.
  • Christi Himmelfahrt (Christ in sky, literally “Christ sky goes”) falls 40 days after Easter. It celebrates the day when Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven, and it’s another public holiday.
  • Pfingsten (Pentecost) falls on the 50th day after Easter, and commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit is said to have come to earth. It’s yet another public holiday.

What Are Some Easter Traditions to Keep an Eye out for in Germany?

With all these holidays, it makes sense that Germans would have plenty of Easter traditions, right?

And sure enough, Germans do plenty to celebrate this time of year, possibly enjoying at least one of each of the following:

  • Osterbaum (Easter tree). Germans decorate either small indoor trees or bushes or branches cut from flowering plants at Easter. These trees are decorated with small eggs and spring garlands.
  • Osterfeuer (Easter bonfire). On the Saturday before Easter and on the Sunday itself, it’s a tradition in Northwestern Europe, including Germany, to light a huge bonfire. These bonfires are often fueled by Christmas trees, kept specially for this occasion.
  • Spaziergang (walk). Since these holidays (ideally) fall on some of the first nice days of the year, it’s common to see Germans out and about walking, hiking and enjoying the spring.
  • Ostermarkt (Easter market). Like Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) in December, Easter markets crop up all over at this time of year. At Easter markets, you can buy Easter crafts, snacks and chocolates.

Check out this gallery to see photos of some of these traditions.

10 Tempting Vocabulary Words for Indulging in German Easter

Your German Easter is going to be much easier if you learn a bit of German vocabulary, in addition to the events above, for discussing your plans with people or asking them where to go to make the most of this holiday.

Learn these 10 vocabulary words and you’ll be able to navigate around Germany enjoying Easter traditions in no time.

1. Kirche (church)

Even though Easter has plenty of ties to pagan spring rituals, it’s also largely a religious holiday. In Germany, you can attend mass in the Catholic parts of the country, or services in the Protestant regions.

How can I use this word?

Wo steht die Kirche? (Where is the church?)

2. Ei/Eier (egg/eggs)

Easter eggs might seem as American as apple pie, but like most of the so-called “American traditions,” this one was brought over by immigrants early in the country’s history—namely, immigrants from Germany. Eggs started out as a pagan symbol of spring and rebirth, but they became part of Germany’s Easter celebrations, and remain so today. People blow out the inside of eggs and paint them, place them in a basket for the Easter bunny to hide, exchange them and eat chocolate versions of them.

How can I use this word?

Ich möchte ein Ei malen, bitte. (I would like to paint an egg, please.)

Wo sind die Ostereier? (Where are the Easter eggs?)

3. Hase (bunny)

Like the Easter egg, the bunny is an erstwhile pagan symbol that was adapted for Christianity. Now, the Osterhase (Easter bunny) hides eggs for children on the night before Easter, and appears in chocolate form at markets and in shop windows.

How can I use this word?

Ist der Osterhase gekommen? (Did the Easter bunny come?)

4. Karneval (Carnival) 

Carnival is related to Easter, but this tradition takes place 40 days before Easter itself—namely, in the days before Lent, which in Christianity is a time of fasting, sobriety and reflection. Akin to (and the equivalent of) celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival is a time of frenetic parties and outlandish costumes, a few days when everyone expends all their debaucherous energy before the 40-day lead-up to Easter.

When celebrating any German event or tradition, be aware of how the different regions of Germany are very different from each other. Carnival isn’t a big deal in some parts of the country (you won’t see much of a celebration in Berlin, for example). However, in other regions, such as Cologne, the celebration takes over for a week.

How can I use this word?

Geht ihr nach Köln während Karneval? (Are you going to Cologne during Carnival?)

5. Osterglocken (daffodils)

Osterglocken are daffodils, those yellow flowers that bloom at the beginning of the spring. Many Easter traditions have their roots in spring celebrations, so flowers are an integral part of the holiday and its decorations. You’re likely to see daffodils around on Easter.

How can I use this word?

Pflücken Sie diese Osterglocken, bitte. (Pick those daffodils, please.)

6. Palme (palm)

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, when Jesus is said to have returned to Jerusalem. People who attend church services on this Sunday typically receive a palm frond.

How can I use this word?

Hast du einen Palmwedel bekommen? (Did you get a palm frond?)

7. Schokolade (chocolate)

Germans always eat a lot of chocolate, and Easter is no exception. At the Easter markets and shops, you’ll see plenty of chocolate bunnies and eggs for sale, which can be a tasty way to celebrate the return of spring.

How can I use this word? 

Ich möchte einen Schokoladenhase kaufen! (I would like to buy a chocolate bunny!)

8. Osterkerze (Easter candle)

In traditional Christian churches, Easter candles, which are long white tapers, are lit in the hours between the Saturday preceding Easter and the day itself. If you attend service the Saturday before Easter, you might be given such a candle to light and carry into the church.

How can I use this word?

Sind die Osterkerzen angezündet? (Are the Easter candles lit?)

9. Osterkorb (Easter basket)

Remember that the Easter bunny comes in Germany, just as he comes in the United States. The night before Easter, children leave out baskets, which the bunny hides around the house overnight, sparking a search the next morning.

How can I use this word?

Ist der Osterkorb voll? (Is the Easter basket full?)

10. Lammfleisch (lamb)

Easter dinner takes place on Easter Sunday. The most common meat to eat at this feast is lamb. It’s important to know this word, so you’ll know what you’re eating if you’re invited to a traditional German Easter meal!

You can find some traditional German Easter recipes here.

How can I use this word?

Ist das Lammfleisch lecker? (Is the lamb good?)

 

Looking to practice this vocabulary further, and maybe learn some more while you’re at it?

Try purchasing a German children’s book about Easter, like this bilingual one—it’ll get you excited for the holiday while also helping your German.

And if you happen to find yourself in Deutschland at this time of year, be sure to enjoy the local traditions and the returning sunshine.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)



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