Last week, the clock changed. Days got longer by 1 hour and nights became suddenly short. Evening light lingered after 7 pm and the weather finally changed. In Koln, spring flowers burst out in huge splashes and they added colour to still cold days. Skies are blue and cloudless, on bare branches tender green buds unfurl, and bird songs fill the air. German spring is very pretty. The huge Stadtpark, the city park, that lies at the heart of Koln is carpeted with wildflowers, and large daffodils dance in the wind. Daises too have come out in abundance and they were preceded by clumps of shy snowdrops. Almond trees are decked in pale pink buds, while apple trees are covered in white blossoms. The cherry trees are also in full bloom and their beauty is unparallel. Only perhaps the magnolias and camellias can compete with the beauty of a blossoming cherry tree and in general, Koln spring makes the whole city indulge in hanami to the fullest.
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White asparagus – German spring veggie king
The king of vegetables – apart from potato – for Germans is white asparagus. German spring literally means spargel time and it is the food of choice during Fruhlingszeit. Often referred to as the ‘vegetable of kings, ‘edible ivory,’ or ‘white gold’, farmer markets and supermarkets are stocked with white asparagus and Koln spring sees spargel popping up on menus everywhere, from being served with Hollandaise sauce, accompanying Schnitzel, prepared in pasta to soup, white asparagus rules this time of the year in Germany.
Easter time and the holiday crush
Children’s favourite, Ostern or Easter is the biggest German spring festival and already the families are preparing to take off for their 2 weeks Easter holidays. Although most German families have probably planned and booked their Easter holiday at least 6 months ahead, by March-end, there is a frantic rush to find last-minute deals. School holidays start soon and everywhere there is a sense of reawakening energy. Chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies are the themes of the moment and cute edible rabbits tempt you from supermarket aisles. Much emphasis is given to Easter traditions in Germany, families spend quality time on the egg hunt and finding small goodies hidden around the home and at the local parks and playgrounds.
Sweet German spring rituals
From painting eggs, dining on white asparagus, to going on egg hunts, here are some of the most charming German spring traditions. One of the earliest mentions of an Easter bunny being related to German spring was in a 1682 doctoral dissertation. At that time, Professor Franck published a 16-page dissertation titled “De Ovis Paschalibus. Von Oster-Eyern.” (“On Easter Eggs”). It mentions the existence of the folk belief in an egg-bearing Easter bunny found in Protestant regions of Alsace and the Palatinate. When loosely translated into English, that excerpt reads: “In Alsace, and neighboring regions, these eggs are called rabbit eggs because of the myth told to fool simple people and children that the Easter Bunny is going around laying eggs and hiding them in the herb gardens. So the children look for them, even more enthusiastically, to the delight of smiling adults.” (Bos, Carole; “On Easter Eggs – Georg Franck von Franckenau”. Did you know that the Schoko Osterhase or the chocolate Easter bunnies were initially created in Germany and France in the 1850s? All chocolate Easter bunnies are hollow because if they were solid, they would be hard as a brick and virtually inedible. The earliest chocolate Easter bunnies in Germany in the mid-19th century were heavy and solid. However, since they were costly and rather inedible, a method to create a hollow chocolate figure was developed. This method was inspired by beekeepers and their honey centrifuges.
German spring Easter traditions
- One of the most charming German spring traditions is to blow eggs. This is also the first Easter-related activity. It takes place a few weeks before Easter and involves blowing out the contents of the egg through a tiny pinprick in the bottom and top. The eggshells are rinsed and left to dry. They are then decorated with rainbow colours and beautiful patterns by children and grown-ups.
- Hanging of eggs on trees sounds rather Christmasy but it is also a popular German spring tradition. Once dry, the decorated eggs are threaded and hung up, either on a tree outside or on a branch (or collection of branches) inside. This represents ushering in a new life.
- A family festival means a family meal and Germans are very traditional by nature. So on every German spring, on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday), families, especially in Hessen sit down to a meal consisting of Grüne Sosse or green sauce. It is a green coloured creamy sauce that is flavoured with herbs and is served with Salzkartoffeln (boiled salt potatoes).
- There is no greater fun than a bonfire fun and of course, every German spring sees Osterfeuer smoking out amidst a circle of barbequing families. This Easter bonfire reminds me of our own Holi festival – another spring festival – Holika dahaan and I wonder if bonfires had any symbolic meaning relating to starting off a new season. The biggest of these great big public bonfires take place on the evening of Easter Sunday and on Good Saturday. In the olden days, the ashes from the fire were scattered on the fields as a fertilizer. These days they serve as get-togethers to drink a beer and eat sausage.
- Easter is a popular German spring family celebration. Entire families get together to celebrate it and the egg hunt is an essential part of most German childrens’ childhood memory. So on Easter Sunday, all over Germany, in parks, fields, and gardens, friends and families gather together. Earlier, one or two adults parents slope off to scatter chocolate delights in trees, behind bushes, underneath stones. Then someone hints at having seen the Osterhase (Easter bunny) and the children armed with baskets, rush off to find the chocolate eggs. The joy of hunting is immense as is the joy of eating afterward.
P.S – This blog post is part of the series called the Cologne Diaries, which highlights a new theme, emotion, and beauty of an expat life in Cologne. For more exotic fun, check out my Cairo Chronicles in the Expat Life category.
Follow the rest of the Germany travel series
- PHOTO ESSAY OF SANSSOUCI PALACE OF POTSDAM
- AN AUTUMN IN POTSDAM
- BONN CHERRY BLOSSOM
- HEATHER BLOOMING IN LÜNEBURGER HEIDE IN GERMANY
- WHAT TO EAT AT A BRAUHAUS IN COLOGNE
- ROMANTIC COCHEM
- ROMANTIC ROUTE ALONG THE MOSEL RIVER
- BEAUTY OF COLOGNE CATHEDRAL
- INCREDIBLE MOSAICS OF AACHEN CATHEDRAL
- BAVARIA WINTER HOLIDAY
- BREITENBERG MOUNTAIN TOBOGGANING TRIP
- TEGELBERG MOUNTAIN DAY TRIP
- NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
- WIESKIRCHE, A LOVELY ROCOCO CHURCH
- BAVARIA ON MY PLATE
- WHY VISIT FÜSSEN
- CAMELLIAS AT COLOGNE BOTANICAL GARDEN
- KOLN FLORA IN SPRING
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE