Easter Fire – Osterfeuer!
What is Easter fire in Germany? Why do I find similarities between Easter and Nowruz?
by Duygu Bräuer
When I went to a German village to take a break during Easter holiday a couple of years ago, I was kindly invited to attend an “Osterfeuer” gathering in the village. We came together in an empty field and made a circle at night. Then a huge fire appeared in the middle of us. I was astonished since I had never seen something like that in my seven year experience of living in Berlin. The fire lighted and warmed not only the night but also the atmosphere. We ate, drank “Eierlikör” (a German egg liquor, which is similar to eggnog) and chatted together. It was a very pleasant event.
The Easter fire has a long tradition in Germany. It starts with the lighting of a Paschal candle, usually by a Priest or Pastor, in a traditional Christian way. This symbolises the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But there is a much older tradition than the Christian one in Germany. The name Easter is believed to have originated with Ostara, the ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn. Easter bonfire welcomes spring, and farewells winter. The fire symbolises the light and is also considered to be a symbol of fertility. The ashes from the Easter fires, being spread on the fields, are believed to fertilise the soil and assure good crops for the next harvest.
I have notices the manifold Easter decorations and celebrations that follow the traces of this traditional pagan spring festival. Boiling and painting the eggs, having colourful egg decorations and the figures of Easter bunny, and baked pastries in the shape of a bunny are some of the Easter traditions in Germany. In gardens and even in some city centres, I have seen an “Easter Tree” (Osterbaum), a tree which is decorated with hand-painted wooden eggs. I liked this view so much, that I started making my own DIY Easter tree at home by using some branches und colourful decorative eggs. It brings me a sense of spring, freshness and joy. And there is the egg hunt for children. At home, in gardens or in parks (some parks in Berlin organise egg hunts every Easter) the decorated eggs are hidden during the night before Easter by the Easter bunny, as people tell their children. On the hunt, children may find candies, chocolate, and small gifts.
Making a bonfire as a symbol of light in the darkness and to welcome spring is not unfamiliar to me. In my home country, there is also a fire ceremony to greet the spring and it is called “Nowruz”, being mostly celebrated on 21 March. Nowruz is known as the Persian New Year and marks the beginning of spring. Nowruz is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups; hence there are cultural or geographical differences in how it is celebrated. In Turkey, people (mostly Kurdish) gather in a field to make a bonfire. Later, everyone jumps over the bonfire and they dance together around the fire. This fire, as similar to Easter fire, symbolises the passing of the dark winter and the arrival of spring, the season of light. Jumping over the fire as a metaphor for entering the New Year is a tradition. It is almost the same meaning of the fire which is lit at Chaharshanbe Suri, as the prelude to Nowruz in Iran. One of my Iranian friends told me that it is believed in Iran that there is a fight between good and evil. Good is symbolised with light – so is evil with darkness. Thus, this fire is a light in the darkness, and jumping over the fire after dusk is a purification, which gives people energy and reduces sickness and misfortune for the year ahead. The ashes of the bonfire (and this differs from the German tradition) are interpreted as the misfortune brought by winter. Therefore, they should be taken out of the house and buried in the fields.
It is so nice to see the similar traditions and customs around the world. This similarity makes me feel warm in Germany, and encourages my curiosity about other cultures as well. It makes me think about how we share similarities as human beings and how the different cultures have affected each other for centuries.
#Ankommen in Berlin #Kultur & Freizeit