Michaela Buerger grew up in Carinthia, in the South of Austria.
Austria is a country with a robust catholic belief with many many traditions and customs. Today she lives with her husband and daughter in France, where she misses the beautiful traditions of her childhood and life in Austria.
« Each Easter celebration is prepared with a lot of love, and attention during lent. First of all, the house and the garden is cleaned up. Then we decorate the house with beautifully painted and decorated eggs.
On Friday before Easter, we, of course, do not eat any meat.
On Easter Saturday, each family brings a basket to church. In the basket, you find cooked ham, sausages, colored eggs, and Reindling (a specialty from the region, some sort of sweet brioche, filled with raisins, sugar, cinnamon, and nuts, it is super delicious; please find the recipe here below). Each basket is covered with a beautiful blanket, entirely embroidered by hand, cross-stitch, with Christian symbols.
The priest has to give the benedictions to all the food in church. Once this is done, we can eat all the delicious things at home. This is our typical Easter meal.
Of course, we also go to church on Sunday and continue to celebrate, which means in Austria to eat even more.
I am happy to share with you some traditions and beliefs from the Alpine region, from my childhood to share the essence with you of the celebration, whether you are Catholic or not: "We are saved, even in the most challenging times". Especially in this severe actual health crisis in this world, we have to have a positive belief.
I love Nadine-Simon Stegelmaier (look out for her beautiful Instagram account @nostalgia), who lives in Bavaria, South of Germany, who wrote a fascinating book about old traditions and beliefs.
The book's title is « Raunächte» and please let me share with you some extracts she wrote about Easter."
Easter and thus the resurrection of Christ as the oldest and main festival of Christianity and with much older mythological roots has always been surrounded by all sorts of customs and ancient knowledge. The focus was on a wide variety of topics such as magical precautions for the house and yard, fields and cattle, expelling the demonic and ghosts, care for health, omens and predictions, weather rules and food consecration and magic.
Another topic at Easter has always been rejuvenation and reorganization - both in nature and in personal life. After the long affliction of Lent, the body was rebuilt with plenty of food. A new beginning of life began. At the same time, the Christian Easter reminds us that death in the Christian faith is also a new beginning. It is closely related to the pagan spring festivals from pre-Christian times, which celebrate the blossoming of nature.
Spring and fertility festivals were already known to ancient peoples: at the beginning of spring, they awakened nature and celebrated all sorts of rituals to bring the sun and thus grow to earth. Last but not least, today's Easter is also rooted in the Passover of the Jews, in memory of the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Exodus).
So our Easter is a mixture of ancient traditions that were filled with Christian faith. It is the same with the customs and manners that surround these days. Many ancient backgrounds have been mixed with more recent customs.
Known customs and symbols:
The Easter water: The Easter water goes back to a pre-Christian ancient pagan origin. The Easter water should heal eye diseases, rashes, and other illnesses if you draw it from the spring. At that time it was believed that if you wash yourself in the flowing stream on Easter morning, you always stay young and beautiful.
The Easter fire: The sun, with which the Easter eggs are equated, is the victor over winter and awakened after a long cold period. The appearance of Jesus can be interpreted in the same way. The lighting of the holy Easter fire is a central event for Christians at Easter. The fire is lit and consecrated in front of the church on Easter Saturday, at the beginning of the liturgy on Easter night. The Easter candle is lit at the Easter fire, which is then carried to the still dark church in a solemn procession with three chants of the "Lumen Christi" (Light of Christ). As old customs, wood, brushwood or similar combustibles are still collected by boys in numerous cities and municipalities in Germany and piled up for the great Easter fire.
The Easter Lamb: The Easter lamb also belongs to the Christian Easter. The Easter lamb originated from the ritual of the Jews for the Passover to slaughter and eat a lamb. The lamb is slaughtered in memory of God. In the Christian church it has become symbolically the Lamb of God and is represented with the flag, the sign of victory. The priest transforms the wine and bread into flesh and blood in words. The lamb is understood as a sign of life.
Easter eggs: The custom of giving eggs for Easter has different origins. The egg was considered to be the origin of man or even of the universe early in cultural history. Already in the early Christian period it was a symbol of life and resurrection, so that an egg was given into the grave of the dead. The egg holds something hidden, is like a closed grave. Something living finally hatches from a dead body. This makes the relationship to the resurrection of Christ clear.
The Easter candle: The Greek, Jewish, Roman and Christian light traditions unite in the Easter candle. The light is considered a sign of life. The Easter candle and the light celebration at the beginning of the liturgy have their earliest roots in the custom of the old church to illuminate the Easter night with numerous candles. In addition, there was a custom in the city of Rome to light up the Easter night celebration with two man-sized candles.
Old customs from popular belief
This is how you should have finished work started at Easter, otherwise you would never be able to finish it.
The children were given new clothes. If this was not possible, they were switched to "Osterkälbli".
In the Bavarian Forest it was said that you could start walking barefoot directly at Easter without being damaged, because then the earth was consecrated.
Those born on Easter Day were considered special children of luck.
In many regions, people whipped loudly or whipped pots to pieces - the task was to drive out the evil winter spirits.
On Easter morning, branches are hung in the fresh shoot in the barn to protect the animals from witches.
If someone died between Easter and Pentecost, he was immediately saved.
When the Pope gave the blessing to the whole world at noon in Rome, the farmer also went to his field, knelt, and made the sign of the cross to direct him to his fields.
You baked pancakes on Easter Sunday morning and carried the eggshells to the field - so the grain was immune to weather damage.
The remains of the Easter lamb and the shells of the colored eggs were buried in the garden, so the trees bore plenty of fruit. Eating soberly from the pastries hanging on the palm bushes on Easter morning protected against all stomach diseases. Everything that should not go out during the year was consecrated at the Easter fair.
The ham in particular was a well-known holy meal. Before the lunch table something had to be eaten out of the holy basket, which protected against bodily harm. In Lower Bavaria, part of the consecrated food was carried into the forest for the forest animals.
In many areas, horseradish was eaten with spoons before Easter breakfast to commemorate the bitter sufferings of Christ.
At Easter the world of spirits is on the move and all sorts of magic express its power. For example, on Easter night, all the beginners are on the move.
If you lie on a crossroads on Easter night from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. and, despite all appearances, you neither laugh nor cry, the devil comes in the form of a hunter and gives you all kinds of gifts.
The dowsing rod is christened on the first Easter day.
You have to be vigilant against witches on Easter night. Therefore shots echo through the night to drive them away.
According to widespread belief, God releases the souls on Easter night until Pentecost that they can romp around on earth.
In the Easter days, trees and springs are suitable for all kinds of oracles. For example, you pick palm kittens and give them the names of the boys in the village. Then you sprinkle them in the water and the kitten that swims the longest becomes the future husband.
"I hope these beliefs speak to you in one way or the other, as they are profound and grew over centuries. Maybe something will work out for you.
I would like to share with you my best recipe for the typical Carinthian Reindling, we do traditionally eat at Easter, it is simply super delicious."
Wishing you a peaceful and healthy Easter Weekend,
Dish dessert // Country and region Carinthia
Servings of 3 Reindling
1 kg of wheat flourT700 (350gr of it for steam = "Dampfl"
50 g yeast for steam (Dampfl)
20 g cane sugar for steam (Dampfl)
10 g honey for steam (Dampfl)
350 g water for steam (Dampfl)
110 g milk for dough
110 g water for dough
30 g rum for dough
18 g salt for dough
120 g cane sugar for dough
Lemon for batter
Vanilla for dough
160 g butter for dough
1 egg for drive
1 yolk for drive
Cinnamon for filling
Cane sugar for filling
Cocoa for filling
Raisins for filling
Chopped walnuts for filling
Clarified butter for brushing for filling
Butter for spreading out the form
To prepare the steam, form a well into the sifted flour (about 350gr) add yeast, sugar, honey and water to the well, stir "pudding-like" and let stand for 20 minutes.
Preparation of dough:
Then whip the egg and yolk for the drive and mix with the remaining dough ingredients (except the butter) to form a smooth dough. Add the butter during the kneading phase (2nd course = fast course). Let the dough rest well covered for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, coat the baking tins well with butter, this will refine the taste of the rekindling
For the fullness, mix the cinnamon with cane sugar and cocoa. Prepare the raisins soaked in rum and some water overnight. Crush or roughly chop the walnuts.
Now divide the dough into three equal parts and let it stand again for 20 minutes. It needs enough time and relaxation to develop the full taste and to open well.
Then roll out the dough, spread with warm clarified butter, spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top and then sprinkle the rum raisins and walnuts over them according to taste.
It is important to roll the dough tightly together (at least 4 turns). Then put the beginning in the end and put it in the buttered form.
Then let it rest well covered for about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to about 175 degrees Celsius and bake for about 45 minutes. Immediately after baking, throw the reindling out of the mold while the cinnamon sugar that has leaked is still warm.
Nadine-Simone Stegelmaier's fascinating book "Rauhnächte". I hope it will exist soon also in English!