Monday, April 14, 2014

Osterhasi and the Tanzverbot

In Germany Easter is celebrated much the same as in the U.S.. Lent is over so we can indulge in the things we gave up for those forty days like chocolate, soda, or afternoon naps, the stores are full of colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and Easter baskets, and parents are getting ready to lie to their children about a giant rabbit that comes in the night like Santa Claus, hiding baskets of treats while the children settle in for nightmares.

Photo by Duncan Hull (

The traditional meal is a darling little delicious lamb, which we and my Schwiegermutter will be cooking on Easter Sunday.

"Run, lads! That bloke looks like he wants to eat ye!"
Peeps® are unknown over here, thank goodness, and I haven't seen Jelly Beans®, either. The main treat is chocolate, which comes in all the expected shapes - bunnies, eggs, lambs, and ducks.

Most likely the churches are fuller on Easter Sunday than on regular Sundays, but surely it's a day for family.

As I wrote in more detail last year, it's Good Friday that is so different here from in the U.S.. First of all, it's a stiller Feiertag (quiet holiday) in all of Germany, meaning that all businesses, factories, stores (including grocery stores), butchers, banks, schools, and most bakeries are closed, there's no mail delivery, and trucks are not allowed on the roads. There are some exceptions, of course: I believe gas stations and rest stops along the Autobahnen are open because many people are traveling, and of course hospitals...

Bad Bunnies! BAD!
On Good Friday there is also a Tanzverbot (dance ban). You can do what you want inside your own home if your windows are closed, but no one should appear in public to be having fun of any kind. Laughing, dancing, partying, sports, playing tag...there are 364 other days for that kind of fun. Good Friday is a day for quiet, solemn, contemplative behavior. Most public events are closed for the day, though exhibitions and events in the name of art, science, or education are allowed to remain open. Even theaters and opera houses have to consider the spirit of Good Friday in their schedule, though I don't know exactly what that means. I imagine they may have dramas and concerts that evening, but nothing comical or whimsical.

Easter Monday is also a stiller Feiertag in Germany, so most places are closed again. What this means for day-to-day planning is that we have to have all our shopping finished for the Easter weekend (Friday morning through Monday night) by Thursday, since grocery stores are closed on even regular Sundays, not to mention Easter Sunday. Yes, Saturday is a normal day, but the grocery store will be such a madhouse that I wouldn't brave that scene for anything.

I suspect that would be the toughest thing for Americans to get used to here - that on Sundays and holidays, stores are CLOSED. If you suddenly realize you've run out of onions, flour, wine, or potatoes which you need for your dinner, you're out of luck and have to do without. There are no stores open 24/7, and on holidays grocery stores are not open several hours in the mornings for those who need to grab something last-minute. This is why I have become good at planning meals for a full week. I'll have all the vegetables I need by Tuesday evening after Mustafa, our rolling farmer's market, stops on our street, I pre-ordered the meat last week at the butcher, I have a spare loaf of bread in the freezer, enough wine in the cellar, and I'll be driving to the Kartoffelhof* and the Spargelhof** on Thursday morning.  It's Spargel-Saison!!! (Asparagus season - blog post pending)

   *Potato farm
  **Asparagus farm (Yes, we drive to a farm to buy fresh white asparagus picked that day. So worth it.)

I wish you all a Happy Easter!

Bunny Illustration by Nicola O'Byrne

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