How Germany observes Easter traditions

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It's a tradition in the Eifel area for
children to walk around through the community with so called Good Friday
Rattles, wooden noise-makers of various kinds, which are supposed to replace
the ringing of the bells from Green Thursday, March 28 this year,
until Easter, March 31 this year. By making the noise, the small
ones invite Christians to worship. This is done usually three times a day,
at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It's a tradition in the Eifel area for children to walk around through the community with so called Good Friday Rattles, wooden noise-makers of various kinds, which are supposed to replace the ringing of the bells from Green Thursday, March 28 this year, until Easter, March 31 this year. By making the noise, the small ones invite Christians to worship. This is done usually three times a day, at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- For Easter, German people typically decorate their houses and front yards with various Easter decorations, to include painted eggs or other ornaments, and often wooden rabbits. A resident of Landscheid set up this piece of decoration on her house wall. The ideas and decorations by people vary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- For Easter, German people typically decorate their houses and front yards with various Easter decorations, to include painted eggs or other ornaments, and often wooden rabbits. A resident of Landscheid set up this piece of decoration on her house wall. The ideas and decorations by people vary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Iris Reiff/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Easter time is slowly approaching, and in Germany, the Easter season and holidays are associated with a number of local customs and traditions.

Gruendonnerstag, or Green Thurs¬day, is always four days before Easter, this year's being March 28.

Gruendonnerstag is not a federal holiday in Germany but plays an important role in rural customs of earlier times. For Christians, the day commemorates the Last Supper celebrat¬ed by Jesus with his disciples.

Good Friday, the following day, which is March 29 this year, is a German federal holiday. It is considered a day of sadness and mourning since it is said to be the day Christians remember Christ's death on the cross. Churches hold services of devotion at the Stations of the Cross.

Another common tradition is that Catholic churches, which are predominantly in the Eifel region, do not ring their bells from Green Thursday until Easter. Instead, the local children, often the church servants, walk through town with Good Friday Rattles, wooden noise-makers of various kinds, which are supposed to replace the ringing of the bells calling Christians to worship. This is done usually three times a day, at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m.

Parents often tell small children that the bells have been sent to the Pope in Rome for consecration.

Then on the Easter holidays, which are March 31 and April 1 this year, Germans like to celebrate the feast with friends and families. Parents often give their children small Easter baskets, usually filled with colored hard-boiled eggs, chocolate eggs, marzipan eggs, chocolate Easter bunnies and sweets.

Similar to America, the treats are hidden in the house and when weather allows in the garden. The children then search for them Easter morning. They are told the Easter Rabbit brought the eggs. The Easter bunny can be seen everywhere at this time of year on greeting cards sent to friends and relatives, on advertise¬ments or as decorations in the house.

Around the Easter holidays, people can expect a visit by a group of children, usually the church servants and rattlers in the local community. The children and youngsters walk from door to door, collecting eggs, chocolate or a small fee, which typically ranges from 2-5 Euros for a joint church budget. The money is supposed to go to the church servants for their accomplishments throughout the year.

In the Eifel area, people also like to take the opportunity for an Easter walk or even a barbecue, if weather allows. Restaurants will be crowded for lunch over the Easter weekend, especially since Monday, April 1, is also a federal holiday. For others, the Easter holiday simply provides the time to relax, watch a good television show, go on a trip or spend time with friends and family.