The Easter egg tree, or der Ostereierbaum, is a centuries old German tradition. Although the origins are unknown, there are many theories on the beginning of the Easter tree.
The egg has been a symbol of life throughout history and across cultures. The egg is thought to symbolize a rebirth after winter. It is a container for new life. Humans begin their lives as eggs. It is thought to represent Jesus' emergence from the tomb and resurrection. These and many more, are the reasons eggs are associated with Easter.
Why decorate the egg? One theory is that egg decorating dates back to at least the 13th century when eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season. People would paint and decorate the eggs until the end of the fasting period, then celebrate by eating the beautiful eggs on Easter.
Why hang these beautifully decorated symbols of life from tree branches? This is where things get a little mysterious. In the 1600s in Sweden, people used twigs and sticks to beat each other on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering of Jesus. A couple hundred years later, they started using the sticks to hang eggs from in celebration of Easter. The origins in Germany are undocumented and unclear, but it doesn't stop the tradition! The most famous Ostereierbaum was in the garden of Volker Kraft in Saalfeld, Thuringia. He and his wife began decorating an apple tree in their yard in 1965 with 350 eggs. As the years went by and the tree grew, they increased the eggs until in 2012 they had over 10,000 eggs on their tree. This brought thousands of visitors to their home each year to see the amazing tree. The biggest easter tree however, was at the Rostock Zoo where they decorated a massive red oak tree with 79,596 eggs! The tradition of decorating a tree outside is also something my kids really enjoy and brings a lot of spring spirit, even as the cold winter continues.
How to make your traditional Easter Ostereierbaum. You can use pussy willow or birch twigs available from garden stores and markets, a live houseplant, or even go outside in the forest or your yard and gather some nice flowering branches from a tree or bush. If you choose twigs or branches, place them in a decorative vase with stones or beads to hold them steady. Decorate your branches with hand decorated eggs purchased from local markets and stores, or make your own. Simply poke a hole in the egg, blow out the inside, rinse it, and air dry. Dye, decorate and affix a ribbon for your kids to hand their creations on the tree. Enjoy your beautiful Easter Tree as it blooms and becomes more beautiful as we head towards Easter.