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Art & Culture
Easter in Salzburg
When the bright yellow blossoms of forsythias reach out towards the sunlight, satiny-soft catkins adorn the willows and colorfully painted eggs lie on the table, then you know it’s that time of year again: Eastertime. And the arrival of Easter is accompanied by an array of beautiful, traditional customs and festivities that involve the whole family.
Easter has all kinds of exciting moments in store, especially for the youngest family members. And that doesn’t only mean catching sight of sweet bunny families hip-hopping in small groups across the nearby fields. There are also living traditions, traditions with roots that go back countless centuries, such as painting Easter eggs, strolling through Easter markets, and getting all dressed up in your brand-new Easter clothes. In the weeks running up to Easter Sunday, you will encounter a fascinating array of events and local customs, some familiar, some less so, though all of them certain to put a sparkle in your children’s eyes.
When the first spring flowers dot the green meadows, people in this part of the world also know that it will soon be time to make this season’s Easter Palms. These beautiful arrangements of branches and twigs are a Palm Sunday tradition, intended to commemorate the palm branches used to greet Jesus when he entered Jerusalem. The evergreen branches also symbolize eternal life. Needless to say, there is a correct way to make an Easter Palm. First, you take your twigs and branches –such as catkins, boxwood, holly or juniper – anywhere from seven to nine in total. You tie these into a small bunch, insert a stick of hazelwood, then fasten everything even tighter. The various plants used to create Easter Palms, incidentally, each have their own particular significance. The holly, for example, is said to ward off evil demons, while the hazelwood protects you from being struck by lightning. The catkins bring blessings, as does the boxwood. Anyway, once you have your small bundle, it’s time to decorate it with colorful wood shavings or ribbons. Now your Easter Palm is ready to be blessed, which happens on Easter Sunday in the local church. At that point, it can be put to multiple uses. You might choose to “plant” it out in a field, for example, which is a way of asking for a bountiful harvest. On the other hand, if you see an Easter Palm outside someone’s front door, that’s intended to protect the people living there from illness, as well as the house from lightning strikes. It’s reasonable to assume that Ben Franklin rejected the practice, though we can’t ever know for certain.
Beautiful Easter Eggs
Vivid blue, jade green or as yellow as sunshine – Easter eggs in the Easter basket, especially those hand-painted by you and your family, are a real highlight and yet another tradition with really deep roots, including here in the Alpine world. There are practically no limits to your imagination when it comes to decorating these fragile works of art. It’s hard to imagine a kid who isn’t as proud as punch, sitting there and gazing at the small stars, flowers, faces and patterns they have just painted onto the ever-so-delicate egg shells. Yet another tradition associated with eggs is one you are less likely to have encountered: Here we refer to them as Antlass Eier: eggs that were laid on Maundy Thursday. For a long time, they were thought to bring good luck and fend of all kinds of bad things. That’s why, in many regions even to this day, these particular eggs are kept safe so as to receive a special Easter blessing.
It’s time to kick off egg-tapping season!
Aside from the beautifully painted Easter eggs we were just talking about a few seconds ago, we can also put those eggs to a different kind of use. Here, the tradition is known as “Eierpecken”, while in English-speaking countries it’s variously referred to as egg tapping, egg jarping or simply egg fighting. Whatever the name, the principle is essentially the same around the world: You roll up your sleeves and challenge the person next to you. Before you know it, you’ll hear egg shells popping and cracking all around you, as one carefully cradled hard-boiled egg smacks into another. If your shell smashes, you lose the dual and you’re out: the process continues until everyone is eliminated – except for the ultimate champion, who thrusts his or her egg triumphantly into the air and claims outright victory. At which point the champ – just like everyone else who had slightly more of a head start – quietly sits back down, peels off the shell, dusts the egg with salt and pepper, and gleefully gobbles it up in no time. After all, it’s not the kind of trophy you’d ever want to keep permanently on your mantelpiece.
Easter at the Open-Air Museum
Over Easter, there’s also lots going on out at the Salzburg Open-Air Museum. A trip to Grossgmain, which is just a few kilometers outside of town, is always rewarding, especially for families – and especially when it’s time for the traditional Easter Market. Once you are there, your youngsters can learn how to decorate eggs or make Easter Palms, while mom and dad will have plenty of time to find something magical to sneak into the Easter basket: Local farmers offer a marvelous selection of amazing food, from a special Easter ham, to bacon, cheese and bread baked to crispy perfection in a wood-fired oven. And should you ever get snacky during your visit, the farmers’ wives have lots of treats up their sleeves, including Pofesen – which are basically a Salzburg version of French toast. However, one of the major highlights during Easter festivities at the Salzburg Open-Air Museum is undoubtedly the giant Easter-egg hunt on Easter Sunday. You’ll be amazed how crafty the Easter Bunny can be when it comes to finding perfect hiding places on the museum grounds for countless colorful Easter eggs.
And if you keep your eyes “peeled” as you explore the museum, you might even catch sight of a real Easter bunny hopping along its gentle, merry way.
Celebrate Easter in Salzburg with us! Here you will find an overview of all the festivities which take place in Salzburg over Easter: