Saturday, 3 April 2010


Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny

Since the time of the ancient Teutonic world the egg has been regarded as a bringer of luck and symbol of fertility, a joyful gift to celebrate the return of spring.

Although egg painting was known in pre-Christian Greece the custom did not reach Northern Europe until the 17th Century when the Turks conquered Byzantium, causing many of the inhabitants to flee northwards, taking their traditions with them, including the custom of painting eggs.

Written records show that the Easter Bunny as egg bringer first appeared on German soil in 1682, in the company of cockerels, foxes and donkeys, who were all deemed "responsible" for the delivery of eggs. It seems most likely that the rabbit won through against the competition because of its high symbolism. Like the egg, the ancient Greeks, Romans and Teutons revered the rabbit as a symbol of fertility.

All the Easter Sundays of my childhood were sunny, how could it have been otherwise. In the predominantly catholic area where I grew up children were told that the Church bells, which fell silent on "Green Thursday" (Maundy Thursday) and did not sound again until Easter Sunday, had flown to Rome, to be blessed by the Pope. So, on Easter Sunday morning, we were woken by the joyous, noisy clamour of the freshly returned bells of the village Church and all the other Churches in villages all around ringing out over the wide, flat, marshy land.

Children rushed outdoors to hunt for the Easter eggs which their parents had painted and hidden in small clusters all over the garden. There were no chocolate eggs until much later but I do remember, that we were given sweets, such as liquorice sticks and boiled, flavoured lumps of sugar when food  became available off the rations and the black markets had ceased to exist.

The eggs were eaten for breakfast. Once the first novelty and excitement of the hunt had passed and the basket of prettily patterned, painted eggs on the table had been admired, I soon grew tired of eating them. They were, of course, cold and hard-boiled, I could never manage more than one; thinking back now, it seems to me that they were dished up, in some form or other, for days afterwards. Eggs were by no means plentiful, not even in the country; being part of the rations, they were a precious source of nourishment, highly appreciated.


  1. I remember going through a phase of blowing eggs,sawing shells in half with a hacksaw, then laboriously layering tissue paper on them for a delicate Papier-mâché to create pseudo Fabergé eggs.
    Some times I weighted them instead and made 'Weebles' - the kids loved 'em. Do you get the idea I'm a born fiddler?

  2. Liebe Ursula, ja, alle Ostersonntage waren sonnig in meiner Kindheitserinnerung, genau wie in Deiner, das ist doch sonderbar, nicht wahr - aber irgendwie auch tröstlich, wie man an Deiner Ostergeschichte sieht, denn trotz der bedrohlichen Zeit bleiben gerade auch die besonders schönen, sonnen- und freudedurchfluteten Situationen besonders gut im Gedächtnis haften. Auch heute ist für mich Ostern ohne buntgefärbte Eier undenkbar. Es ist eine zauberhafte Sammlung auf Deinem schönen österlichen Bild ... da würde mir auch das eine oder andere schon sehr, sehr gefallen.

    Ganz liebe Grüße und ich wünsche Dir ein wundervolles, sonniges Osterfest.


  3. When our kids were at infant school, they always had this competition at Easter where they had to decorate an egg and make it look amazing. All the mums were so competitive, to get their kids' eggs looking the best. I was rubbish at it.

  4. Hi Friko

    thanks for this insight into your childhood Easter and for the Easter education too...
    too many hardboiled eggs can't be a good thing!!

    Happy easter

  5. Lovely picture and a fascinating glimpse of Easter past!

    Happy Easter!

  6. I do appreciate the research you put into your posts, Friko. Nobody I know has the slightest idea that the Easter bunny was originally German! Another one of those obscure facts that I will be hard-pressed to remember next time I need it.

    I love your depictions of your childhood - even though these might not always be pleasant memories for you, you write about them in a way that is tender. It's a bit like watching an old film that takes one completely away from the present. Very nice, indeed.

    And no wonder chocolate eggs usurped the real thing! Once out of their pretty shells, cold, hard-boiled eggs just couldn't live up their billing.

  7. When we lived in Germany, Easter of one of my favourite times! All those lovely confections at the bakeries---especially the ones with marzipan! Even in Ireland, when I was growing up, Easter was a special time---all the ladies got a new costume and a new hat for Easter, and I think going to church was more about parading their finery than about piety! And of course, us kids got chocolate bunnies. And it was so exciting to see new life stirring everywhere, in the farmers' fields, in the trees, in the garden.

    Love your picture and your memories!

  8. Happy Easter, Friko! Loved this. I honestly thought the Easter Bunny was some marketing scheme dreamed up by Hallmark Cards. Nice to know that this truly is steeped in good tradition. PS: My Bad Dog is notorious for helping the neighbor kids hunt for Easter eggs and then gobbling them up instead of putting them in a basket. :)

  9. I really enjoyed reading this. absolutly fasinating THANK YOU xx

  10. Hi Friko: I can imagine the little you wondering about bells flying off to Rome ... wonder if they sounded sweeter after the blessing by his holiness?

  11. That is interesting information about the Easter Bunny, Friko. I had not heard about a bunny at Easter while growing up in France and did not know it was German. The first time I heard about it was when I came to the US. My mother had told me about the “Easter Stork” from Alsace though, which had the same functions as the bunny I think but mostly in France the bells brought Easter eggs. In the candy shops you could buy chocolate eggs and chocolate bells.

  12. jinksy - a born fiddler and a born rhymester, how about that?

    veredit - was immer die Zeit auch bringt, man kann und soll aus jedem Tag das Beste machen.

    Fran - So would I have been under such competitive conditions. i really dislike schools putting the thumbscrews on parents and children.

    Delwyn - no they can't, a herbal mayonnaise might make them more palatable, but this was then, not now.

    Vicki - thank you and a happy Easter to you. Happy Hunting!.

    Deborah - thank you for not calling it 'showing off'. Childhood memories are what they are, as I am sure you know. Unless you have suffered real hardship or abuse, what you remember is how it was, and that was fun, sad, exciting and boring by turns. The conditions of the time make little impact on the child who doesn't knows differently.

    Molly - Easter was a rather double-edged sword for German children. You got new clothes, new shoes, which usually pinched and you were made to go for afternoon walks and you were absolutely forbidden to
    get your clothes and shoes the least little bit dirty.

    Tracey - hello and lovely to have you come back. thank you for your comment.

    Bonnie - I don't think I believed in the tale for very long. Although the bells were indeed silent, but flying to Rome? Pull the other one.

    Vagabonde - The story about the stork is very funny to me. The stork brings the babies in Germany and as Alsace has been both French and German over the last 1000 years, Alsatian children must get a bit confused.

  13. Did you know that Green Thursday ( Gründonnerstag) is an mis- translation? It's not "grün" it's "grein" which is an old word for crying. I was brought up to belive its Gründonnerstag because it's the day you eat Spinach.Did you have Spinach or other green vegetables on that day when you were a child?( no meat of course during holy week) I still cook spinach on Thursday and fish on Friday before Easter.
    Frohe Ostern

  14. Ein gesegnetes Osterfest.

    Hier ist der 13. kein Freitag, sondern ein Dienstag, weil Konstantinopel an solch einem Tag an die Türken fiel.
    Die Eier hier sind rot und am Nachmittag nimmt man sie und versucht gegenseitig, des anderen ein wenig kaputt zu machen, indem man sie leicht gegeneinander schlägt.
    Eiersuchen - oft im Schnee, für mich; für den Kleinen im Garten unter den blühenden Orangenbäumen.

  15. Ivy - no I didn't, thanks for the information. Man lernt doch nie aus. Am Karfreitg gibt es Fisch aber Spinat fuer Gruendonnerstag kenne ich nicht.
    Eigentlich muesste man am Karfreitag doch fasten, oder?

    robert - In jedem Land gibt es andere Traditionen, das macht das Ganze erst interessant. Hat der Kleine heute morgen seine Eier gefunden?

  16. Happy Easter to you, Friko!

    Reading about April fooling, lambs, sheep, bunnies, bells, eggs ... your writing gives us such pleasure, information, and often much to chew on. Hoping that you are having an Easter day as sunny and warm as the one we are experiencing hereabouts.


  17. Easter egg trees and rabbits are 2 things I remember with pleasant nostalgia about my time in Germany. I really must write a blog post about that.

    I loved your post and its picture. Your childhood stories give a wonderful sense of both the pleasure and the pain of being young.

  18. Happy Easter, Friko! Yesterday I thought of you when I made bunny cookies, using an old German cutter that I found in a thrift shop. Many of the bunny images around the house are from Germany - what it is about the rabbit that inspires such colourful images?

  19. Frances - we did, we did; not very warm, but dry and sunny, thank you. what bliss.

    20th century woman - thank you, I am glad you have good memories of Germany.

    Pondside - I don't know, unless it is the association with fruitfulness.

  20. Great story and a gentle reminder to be grateful for those eggs we color.

  21. An interesting insight. I love the tale about the bells flying to Rome for the Pope's blessing.

  22. thanks for this post - happy easter Friko

  23. This was mom put so much energy into making Easter so dad was a wonderful provider..but German that she is- well, you hit it! She just went all out. Anyway, I hope yours was truly a special one!

  24. I love the image of the flying bells - it will stay with me.

  25. I love this picture Friko and the flying bells too. Happy Easter.

  26. Nancy - it's so easy to forget about appreciating things when you have a surfeit.

    Martin H -
    moptop -
    elizabethm - thank you, all three of you. I think the bells also went for a holiday as well as a blessing. I have no idea if children are told this tale nowadays.

    Hungry Pixie - thank you for popping in and Happy Easter to you too.

    Kilauea Poetry - I didn't know you have a German parent. You will know all about these customs, then.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.