The German tradition of the
Osterbaum ( Easter Tree)
Baked Easter Ham German Style
picture courtesy of Bridgett Mühling
Hefe =yeast Kranz= wreath Zopf = braided
Why Braid Bread?
The Hefezopf and Hefekranz tradition of braiding goes back many years. It was perhaps started as a symbolic tradition of human sacrifice hough it can not be fully corroborated. Max Höfer a bread researcher says that many years ago when a husband died the wife would sacrifice her life in his honor and follow him to in the grave. Later just a women's braid went into the grave and as time passed a braided loaf of bread was buried with the husband.
There were many ways to make a "Hair Sacrifice" be it the shaved monks head or giving a braid to a relative to honor the deceased. The hair was considered in some cultures the best part of a person. In some communities it was given as a proposal of marriage. Using the bread instead of real hair was a lot more practical for this time honored tradition.
As time went on the braided loaf of bread became part of festivals and holidays like Christmas, New Years and of course Easter. For Easter the shape is often in a circular wreath and called Hefekranz.
Some other historians claim that it was developed by the first bakers union in Switzerland started in 1256
in the middle ages. The first recorded braided loaf was in 1430. Regardless it is nice to carry on centuries old traditions and make a braided loaf for Easter.
It is really fairly easy.
There are many ways to decorate your loaf and
you can also add different fruits or nuts.
Karen Kinnane last year went to Kleinzerbst, Germany and talks about the German Osterbaums that decorate many villages
Karen writes...Germany is very festive, so many homes in the villages including Kleinzerbst have "Easter egg trees" inside and outside the houses. Inside they often use forsythia branches and in time the "trees" sprout yellow flowers, plus the blown out and decorated colored eggs.
Anne and her Mother used to dye the eggs with home made colors, blowing out the eggs for the shells for the Ostern tree decorations, and using the bent wood match with the string through the egg shell out the smaller hole at the top of the eggshell in order to hang them from the ostern tree after dyeing them with the natural dyes: purple red from beets, yellow from onion skins, green from the stinging nettles of which I don't know the German name or the American name as we have them here at the edge between the fields and the woods. You don't want to touch this plant because it stings your bare skin, makes it itch, NOT POISON IVY! They boiled the organic material and then boiled the eggs in the colored water.
Making Easter Eggs with Natural Dye
Here is a nice colored egg that I made by boiling yellow onion skins. I was very pleased with the nice goldish yellow color.
Simmer the onion skins in some water to get the nice color for the dye.
Wash the egg to get anything off that might keep the dye from setting. Use a small nail or needle and twist carefully till it goes through the shell.Turn the egg over and repeat.
Blow out one end of the shell over a bowl, and the egg will come out.
I put the egg in the simmering yellow dye. Add a little salt or a tablespoon of vinegar as a "mordant" which is something that will help set the dye.
Light Reddish Egg
Here is one made with Beets
Just chop up fresh beets and boil
Bright Purple Egg
Put blueberries in a food processor
Simmer 1 1/2 cups of water with turmeric for 2 minutes.
When Grandma took a notion to bake a ham, she used generous amounts of Grandpa’s homemade wine to baste it with while it was cooking. The spicy aroma of the ham, wine, cloves, and brown sugar baking in the oven left no doubt about what was for dinner! In the old days, she’d buy a real smoked ham, with the bone in and skin on. After having the skin taken off, it was boiled to get some of the salt out of the meat, then covered with brown sugar and cloves, and baked in wine. Those hams were truly memorable!
Fran Augenstein requested this dish that she had in Germany,
and said oohhh the bread around the ham is so delicious.
It picks up the flavors and spices of a traditional roasted ham,
the cloves and the mustard as well as some of the juices.
I give a traditional German rye dough recipe, but if time is short,
you can use any dough or a store bought bread dough, and it will
still be "schmecht gut!"
A German tradition is the Easter Fire (Osterfeuer)
n Germany, the Easter bonfires can trace their origin as a custom back to the 16th Century but probably date back to pre-Christian times. The light from the fire symbolically represents the driving-out of winter and the coming of warmth. The practice is also supposed to increase the fertility of fields. In the Christian tradition the Easter bonfire is a sign of the resurrection of Christ.
In Germany, each village collects their tree trimmings on Holy Saturday. As you can imagine, when a WHOLE village makes a brush pile, its pretty big! They make a flag and stick it on top of their brush pile, and then "guard" it Saturday night from neighboring village kids who would try and take it. They then burn the fire Easter Sunday.
Since many of our family and friends work on Easter Monday, we will have our fire the following Friday night, April 5th @ 7:30pm. (Weather Permitting!) Our fire will celebrate both the resurrection of our Lord and the coming of Spring!
We hope to see many of you, and yes, feel free to bring your brush to add to the pile...the site will be where the Frankenmuth Corn Maze is...across the road from Weiss Centennial Farm.
This is an osterfeuer from back in April 2001
Bach's Easter Oratorio, '' Kommt , Eilet und Laufet ''