But, what is the story behind the bunny? Easter has been celebrated for almost 2000 years and is about much more than indulging in sweet treats. It incorporates faith, mourning and resurrection of life. In short, it is principally a religious festival. But, how does religion merge with modern Easter celebrations? Mayrhofen and Hippach in the Ziller Valley offer a family friendly Easter with tradition and dance.
Easter then and now
Modern Easter celebrations include good food, presents for the children and lots of coloutful chocolate eggs. Of course, all of this is delivered by the Easter Bunny. But, wait a minute…why does a bunny bring eggs? The Easter Bunny is a character from folklore, originating in Germany at the time when people still believed in gods and their powers. Celebrations were as popular back then as they are now, and to celebrate the days getting longer, the Germans organised an annual spring festival.
People believed in the goddess of spring, Ostara, whose symbol was a rabbit. Over time, this tradition was adopted by Christians, who took the date of the spring festival to represent the date of Jesus’ resurrection. Initially, the rabbit didn’t play much of a role. Christians preferred the symbol of eggs which represented fertility. Eggs were painted in bright colours to emphasise the power of new life within them. Word of mouth led to everyday eggs being turned into works of art, which were delivered, according to the stories, by a variety of different animals. Eventually however, it was the rabbit (also a symbol of fertility) who became part of the tradition, and still hops secretly through gardens on Easter morning today.
Und warum Eier? Das Ei symbolisiert die Fruchtbarkeit. Um die Wunderkräfte der Eier zu stärken, wurden sie mit Farbe bemalt.
Family Easter Traditions in the Ziller Valley
Celebrating Easter in a country which values tradition is a special experience. That’s why so many tourists choose to come to Austria every year; to enjoy that unique mix of tradition, beautiful mountains and skiing. Easter officially starts on Maundy Thursday and lasts until Easter Monday. This year’s dates are the 29th March to the 1st April. In the close-knit communities of Mayrhofen and Hippach in the Ziller Valley, tradition meets nature in the most spectacular way. One example is the legendary Easter bonfires in the villages around Mayrhofen.
Easter bonfires are a long-standing Austrian tradition. They are usually lit in the night before Easter Sunday. The flames of the Easter candles which are lit from the bonfires symbolise the resurrection of Christ, as does the fire itself, which also heralds the start of spring. Nowadays, however, religious beliefs play a secondary role in the celebrations. Most importantly, it’s a celebration which brings together family and friends.