German Language Blog

Frohe Ostern! – Happy Easter! Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in Culture, Traditions

The time has come again. Easter is almost here. Since Germany is a Christian country, its people celebrate the annual commemoration of the Auferstehung Jesu Christi (Resurrection of Jesus), commonly known as Ostern (Easter).

Both designations German Ostern and English Easter have the same linguistic roots, and there are different explanations of its origin. Among others, it is assumed that it derives from the Old Germanic word Ausro, which means “dawn”. The modern names Ostern or Easter may be associated to the point of the compass “East”, where the sun rises.

In Germany, the Easter holidays start on the Friday before Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday), which is known as Karfreitag (Good Friday) and last until Ostermontag (Easter Monday).

How Germans celebrate Easter may differ from family to family. Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Usually, families have lunch or dinner together on this day. My family and I are quite traditional and do not eat any meat on Good Friday but only and primarily fish and eggs. This year, Karpfen (carp) is on our lunch menu, which we will eat with salt potatoes and cucumber salad.

Karsamstag (Holy Saturday) is commonly known as Ostersamstag (Easter Saturday) or Stiller Samstag (Silent Saturday). Although this is not an official holiday, Christians commemorate Jesus, pray to him, and are waiting for his resurrection.

Especially, young people “do not” like Good Friday and Holy Saturday because most of them like to go dancing on the weekend but dancing is strictly prohibited on these days. I can remember that I went dancing several years ago on Gründonnerstag (Holy Thursday) and I was fairly confused when, at midnight, the disco staff cordoned off the dance floor – since I was not aware of this prohibition. Although it is not allowed to dance on these days, people are still allowed to go to a club or bar, drink alcohol and listen to the music played there.

Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday) is probably the day that children like best because on this day they may hunt Easter eggs. When I was a child and all my relatives lived still nearby, the whole family met for breakfast and afterwards hunted eggs in the garden. Since we were many people it was usually quite annoying when someone of us found an Easter basket, which was meant for somebody else.

By the way, as a little child I was not a gifted Easter egg hunter. On one Easter Sunday I got up earlier than my parents and did not know that they had already hid some baskets for me. In order to bridge the time for the official go-ahead I decided to watch TV, until my parents get up. I was watching TV for, probably, one hour when my mother entered the living room seeing me sitting in the armchair. And she asked me if I am not interested in checking my Easter baskets. I asked her what she meant by that and she asked me to turn my head again toward the TV set. It took me some further time to recognize the basket under the TV stand. In other words, my Easter basket was starring me in the face for the whole time and I did not spot it.



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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Thanks! But we could mention to English readers that the German word Lenz, etymologically related to English–Lent: the Pre-Easter season, means “spring.” In general it’s not a religious term at all.

    I’m happy to hear that there are still people in Germany (as some of us in the US) who still observe the traditions of the season!


    • Sandra Rösner:

      @Allan Mahnke Thank you EP and Heidi. 🙂

      That’s right Allan, but the word “Lenz” is fairly poetic and rarely used in everyday communication.

  2. Heidi:

    Hello Sandra,
    Thank you so much for the lovely explanation of the German Easter traditions, and your personal story of the Easter basket!
    There are many things I recall from my own childhood in Germany, and now living in Canada I try to pass these traditions and memories onto my own family. Reading your comments makes it very special for all of us!
    Thanks again,

  3. EP:

    Hiding Easter eggs in way too obvious a place (like that Easter basket under the TV)is a popular technique in our family. They “camouflage” well with school supplies on desks, stacks of CDs next to the computer and clothes that should have been picked up but weren’t.

  4. Dr. Kurt R. Fiedler:

    Liebe Sandra!
    Auch in meiner Kindheit war das Ostereiersuchen eine wunderbare Familien Tradition in Eilenburg/Sachsen/Mitteldeutschland so vor 75 Jahren.
    Damit kannst Du mein Alter errechnen!
    Und dennoch sind es ganz herrliche Erinnerungen!
    Nun als ‘Opa’ gehts weiter mit Ostereiersuchen mit unseren Kindern und Enkeln hier in Maryland/USA.
    Ja, Lenz ist ein seltenes Wort; dagegen Frühling oder Frühjahr hat die gleiche Bedeutung unf ist gut verstanden beim Volke!
    Auf Wiedersehen,
    Dr. Kurt R. Fiedler