Where Did the Easter Tree Tradition Come From?
This decorative tradition has European roots.
Odds are, your mother has a photo of you in your Easter Sunday best, standing beside a juvenile dogwood tree that’s bedecked with colorful Easter eggs.
While this technicolor tradition may seem cut from the cloth of a Southern story, it traces its roots to another country entirely—Germany.
There, it’s known as Ostereierbaum, or Easter egg trees. It’s also popular in neighboring Poland, Austria, and Hungary.
One of the most popular Ostereierbaum once stood in a little town called Saalfeld, Germany. There, for 50 years, Volker Kraft decorated an apple tree, adding more eggs to it each year as the tree grew. A year before the tree tradition ended in 2015, it held 10,000 eggs, all hand-decorated by Kraft and his family over the years.
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But that Easter tree doesn’t hold a candle—or an egg—to one in Rostock, Germany. In the Guinness World Record race for the tree with the most eggs, a red oak in Rostock Zoo earns top prize for its nearly 80,000-egg display.
The Easter egg tree tradition is centuries old, but the origins of the story have been lost over time. Of course, eggs are a long-held symbol of life, and Easter happens to fall during Earth’s rebirth at spring. The tree decorating ritual may have just been seen as a way to welcome the arrival of new blooms, buds, and chirping birds.
In the U.S., Easter trees are especially popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, but you can find pockets of the South that wholly embrace the tradition, too—or even just a person down the street who thinks it’s lovely. (We certainly do.)
How to Make Your Own Easter Egg Tree
Outdoor trees are the most visible, but many Easter trees are set up inside. If you’d like to make your own Easter egg tree this year for your centerpiece or mantel, collect a few budding branches from your yard, or look for artificial ones at your local craft store.
Arrange them in a large vase, pail, or even a pretty watering can. You may need some filler like beads, sand, or stones to hold the branches in place. If the branches are real, add water, and the buds might continue to bloom during the Easter season.
Lastly, decorate as you please. Plastic, wooden, real, or painted, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful Easter egg tree. You can color coordinate with your china, or let the rainbow inspire your kids.
If you like the idea of an outdoor Easter egg tree but don’t have a sapling or juvenile tree you can reach easily, consider decorating bushes or shrubs instead. You could also buy topiaries for your porch, popping a few eggs into the greenery for a burst of festiveness.
Several plastic egg companies now punch two holes in either end of the ovum, which makes for easy stringing. You can also tie colorful ribbon through the center of the halved plastic egg, then shut it tight to keep the strand in place.