Ever since I’ve been living in Graz, there hasn’t been an Easter that I haven’t celebrated here in Austria. I love this time of year in Graz because the city wakes up after winter and beautiful flowers are planted everywhere. Celebrating Easter here means that I have learned about many Austrian traditions related to this holiday, and here I would like to summarize the most important ones.
Easter is next to Christmas the most important Christian holiday in Austria. And naturally there are many Easter traditions and customs typical from this country.
Easter is celebrated every year on the first Sunday after the full moon, between the 22nd of March and 25th April. This year, Easter falls on the 21st April. The holiday has its roots in Christianity, celebrating the day when Jesus was resurrected, but it has also deep connections with the beginning of spring. It also marks the end of the Fasting period, which starts after Mardi Gras.
Eating green food on Grün Donnerstag
The typical food to eat on the Thursday before Easter is creamed spinach, fried egg and boiled potatoes. But any kind of green food will do! Eating meat is though not allowed until Easter Sunday itself.
Going to Easter mass
Since this holiday has roots in Christianity and Austria is a very religious country, many go to church on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with their families.
On Saturday people usually take baskets filled with food for Easter Sunday to church. The priest will then bless the baskets.
Visiting Easter Markets
Beautiful markets full of Easter decorations or other hand-made knick-knacks appear in squares everywhere around Austria. Many sell hand-painted easter eggs to decorate Easter trees with.
In Graz, the market is in the main square, it starts usually one week before Easter and there are different events and concerts every day.
One of the nicest ones I have ever been to was the Easter market in Schönbrunn castle in Vienna. They have the most beautiful hand-decorated easter eggs that I have ever seen!
This is a very popular activity for kids especially, but many adults also take their time to do it and create very intricate designs for their eggs.
You usually take white eggs and punch a hole in the top and bottom with a pin, then you can blow out the white and the yolk to only have the egg shell leftover. You can then paint it and decorate it as you wish, adding a small ribbon so that you can then hang it on the Easter tree.
Making an Easter tree
An Easter tree is what it sounds like. You usually take branches of pussywillow and hang decorative Easter eggs from them (either bought or self-made). Some also decorate trees in their garden or plants inside their home, instead of using pussywillow.
The Easter bunny usually comes and hides chocolate eggs and rabbits all over the garden or the house for children to find. Kids have a great time looking for all of them. If you do this for your own kin, make sure you remember which are all the hiding spots! You don’t want to find chocolate eggs months later under the couch. 😉
Eating Osterjause and Osterpinze
On Easter Sunday you usually eat the “Jause” (=snack or tea) made out of cured ham, boiled eggs, horseradish and easter sausage. This is usually placed in a basket and taken to church on Saturday, where the priest will bless it.
In Graz and Styria it is widespread to eat Osterpinze with it, a type of round sweet bread with a Y-shaped cut on the top.
Lighting up an Easter bonfire
During the night between Saturday and Easter Sunday bonfires are lit up all over Austria. People gather around them to celebrate the coming of Easter together. In Graz bonfires are not allowed, so if you want to see one, you should go to a nearby town. Here are some infos about bonfires in the South of Graz.
Blessing houses with smoke
A Weihfeuer (= holy fire) is lit up with dry wood inside an aluminium can hanging by a thread, which is carried around by children from home to home. Every home receives a bit of dry rot, which should bring them good luck for the coming year. The children get chocolate, sweets or money in return.
If you want to learn about more Austrian traditions, find out here all you need to know about celebrating Christmas the Austrian way.