German Easter Nest Tradition- From Germany to Texas
My friend Chuck grew up in Yorktown, Texas, about an 1 ½ hours south of New Braunfels (the heart of German Texas), where his great great grandfather Johann Jost settled in 1848 after leaving Womelsdorf, Germany. Much of his family is still there. Because of the pandemic stay-at-home order, his sister is sorting through Afflerbach family history, and recently came across a story about Easter Nests that he remembered making as a child. He sent me an email that shared the story she found, and asked, “are Easter nests a German Easter Tradition“?
Germans brought so many of their traditions with them when the emigrated to America. Most commonly, Christmas Trees, but they also brought many Easter Traditions with them, like the Easter Bunny, and the less well known Easter nest.
German Easter Traditions in Texas
This story was written by the Granddaughter of Johann Heinrich (a distant cousin). He was born in 1824 about two miles away from Womelsdorf, and emigrated to Texas in 1856.
“German children celebrated Easter not by hunting eggs, but by making Easter nests, a tradition which goes back at least five generations in our family, and is still observed by my niece and nephew. A hoe is used to scrape a depression in the ground which is then lined with fresh new hackberry or pecan leaves. Various colors of wild flowers are then carefully arranged in decorative rings to make a round “nest”. The nest is then sprinkled with water to keep it fresh,and covered with an upside down washtub.
On Easter morning the tub is removed by the excited children and and the colorful dyed eggs left by the “bunny” are revealed. In the early days the eggs were dyed by the women who sewed each egg tightly inside a piece of bright printed cloth.
Easter nest, nest, bird nest, Easter decoration, handmade
The whole thing was then boiled in water and the pattern on the cloth was transferred to the egg. ”
Where does the Easter Nest Tradition Come From?
The Easter nests come from the story of the Easter Bunny’s origins. Hundreds of years ago, Duchess Rosilinda von Lindenberg went into hiding with her children and servants in a remote village. For saving her life, she thanked the people who protected her by bringing them chickens who laid eggs. She wanted to make it extra special for the children, so she had them build little nests. Secretly she colored some of the eggs and hid them in the nests. When the kids discovered the colored eggs, they were excited… and a little confused when a rabbit bounded out of the bushes. The kids presumed the BUNNY had brought the eggs.
And the story stuck, and eventually, traveled all the way to Texas with early German settlers.
Chuck tells me, “Even as late as the 1960s, when I was a kid, our dad would take us out in the country on the Saturday before Easter to pick wildflowers. Everything was in bloom, and they had colorful names like bluebonnets, buttercups, Indian paintbrush, and Mexican hat. We would take them home and decorate “nests “ in our Easter baskets inside the front door of our home. In the morning the nests would be filled with candy.”
Egg nests, colored eggs, fresh flowers are all part of German Easter Tradition. Traditions that held on in the United States for over 150 years!
When I was growing up, we didn’t make nests like this, but we did have Easter Egg hunts when we woke up in the morning. My parents learned pretty quickly that it was best for the Easter Bunny to hide things INDOORS in Southern California, to prevent the chocolates from melting in the warm California sunshine! Our breakfast table would be set with the good china, and naturally, there would be fresh flowers on the table. Mom would set up an Osterbaum on the sideboard hung with beautiful painted eggs. After church, we’d celebrate with other German Families. Kaffee und Kuchen, maybe another Easter hunt. All of us in our finest Easter clothes (my GOODNESS those stockings itched!)
Thanks Chuck for sharing those Easter Memories with us.
What memories of Easter do you have?
My mother is a German Texan and we do this as well. You make an Easter nest and leave it for the Easter bunny. He will visit you and leave gifts if you make the best and leave it out for him.
This is the one we made this year.
I geew up in Ludwigsburg/Baden-Württemberg.
An Easter tradition I continued with my children during their childhood was to create a “Osterstrauss”. We would poke two holes (top and bottom) into white raw eggs and then empty the eggs by blowing so hard into one hole that the egg yolk and egg white would come out thru the other hole. The then empty egg shells were painted with markers or water colors. After the paint was dry we would hang the colorful eggs onto the branches of yellow flowering forsytia or pussy willow branches in a vase.
We made Easter nests with grass, leaves, and wild flowers also.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the 70s and 80s and we always had a Bluebonnet and wildflower best for our Easter basket the sit in. Of course, my family on my mother’s side is German. Both grandparents’ first language was German.
We made nests out of wildflowers in the yard (Fredericksburg)
I’m so glad you wrote about this! My parents grew up in south Louisiana and we always made Easter nests on visits to the grandparents near Robert’s Cove, LA. My friends with Cajun ancestry never heard of this tradition. I’m glad to now know it goes back to our German roots.
My 98y/o Windish grandmother just shared this tradition with me! She said her parents and grandparents did it as well. My grandfather was German. They carried on this tradition with their children. I thought it was so precious. So, though it skipped a generation (my parents didn’t do it with us), I’m going to start it with my children and share the history!
What a great idea. This just seems like a sweet idea for kids that doesn’t require a lot of money or toys.
My mother of Wendish Germans born in Giddings, Texas did this with me and I continued with my children and grand daughters. I did not know the origin until I read this article. I loved knowing and sharing my my family. it’s wonderto continue the tradition and know the origin. Thanks for sharing he stories,
It’s a lovely tradition, and I’m so glad Chuck shared it with me. I’m happy to hear that people are still keeping it up.
Our family still goes out on Easter Saturday and picks Texas wildflowers. We have been doing this for over 100 years. We had over 50 family members gathered together just this past Saturday
That sounds fabulous!