Find out if Easter bonfires are allowed in Germany! Also get 5 tips from the German Fire Brigade Association on things to keep in mind to avoid dangerous situations around the bonfires.
Easter bonfires: The Easter Vigil is celebrated in many communities with an Easter bonfire. Find out whether the Easter bonfires are allowed this year. Also find out where this custom came from and what the significance of the Easter bonfire is.
Why and when do we have Easter bonfires?
Date: usually on the night of Easter Sunday
Meaning: warmth and the expulsion of darkness
Symbol: End of Lent
Easter bonfires are a popular custom at Easter. In Christian culture, they symbolize the end of Lent. The Easter celebration is symbolic of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Easter is one of the most important festivals in Christianity and it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ at the end of Holy Week. However, many of the origins of today’s Easter festival date back to pre-Christian times, and one of them is the Easter fire.
For example, the Germans lit big fires at the beginning of spring to drive away the winter. Later the fires should bring good luck and ensure a good harvest. Easter is therefore at a time when various “resurrection festivals” were celebrated even before the advent of Christianity. These were often festivals of fertility, purification, and the reawakening of nature after the long winter.
When will the Easter bonfire be lit?
In Germany, the time at which the fires are kindled varies from region to region. As a rule, the fires are lit on Easter or Holy Saturday and then usually in the evening or on Sunday night. In some regions – such as Westphalia – but only on Easter Sunday.
Fire as a symbol
One of the most significant and important goods of mankind is fire because it gives light and heat. Without fire, it was difficult for our ancestors to survive and ultimately made human culture possible in the first place.
Since ancient times, the symbol of fire has been considered sacred. The Roman priestesses (Vestal Virgins) already had the task of never letting the holy fire go out.
What is burned at the Easter bonfire?
Piles of wood or tree cuttings are usually burned. In some places, a doll or a tree trunk is also burned, which is supposed to represent Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot. This so-called “Burning of Judas” is still practiced in some parts of southern Germany. Elsewhere, straw witch dolls are also burned.
Origin and meaning of the Easter bonfire
The custom of the Easter fire has been officially documented since 1559, but presumably has its roots much earlier in the pre-Christian tradition (burnt offering). The Easter bonfire probably symbolizes the sun as the center of human life. In the spring, these spring fires greeted the sun (as the victor over the long winter).
In addition, the fires were considered a cult to ensure fertility, growth and the harvest. In the Frankish kingdom (around 750) the meaning of the spring fires was transferred to God or Jesus Christ. Easter bonfires have also been documented in Germany since the 11th century.
Are Easter bonfires allowed in Germany in 2022?
► Yes! Most German communities have been planning the celebrations despite Corona and other current events.
In principle, Easter bonfires are considered a custom and are permitted after approval. Private individuals are generally allowed to light a fire in their garden. But you should have a fireplace for this and there are rules for this in some federal states. For example, how far the spot should be from the road. In Saxony, that should be 100 meters.
► Whether you are allowed to make a large, open fire in your garden varies from region to region. In many places you have to obtain a permit, which includes an inspection of the fireplace by experts. Therefore, the rules of the respective municipality should be taken into account. If there are no specific guidelines for Easter bonfires and fire pits, an expert should still be consulted to avoid a fire risk away from the fire pit.
How big can an Easter bonfire be?
There are no set rules for this. However, the fires must be completely burned down within a certain time and must be supervised at all times. The fire and the embers must also be extinguished when the place is left. The organizer must also properly dispose of the incineration residues and sorted waste within a prescribed period of time. It is also important to rearrange the stack of wood before igniting it so that small animals and birds hiding in the wood are chased away and thus cannot become victims of the flames.
How long does the Easter bonfire last?
Easter bonfires are only allowed on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. How long these fires are allowed to burn varies from community to community. As a rule, it should have burned down as soon as it gets dark.
5 Easter bonfire tips from the German Fire Brigade Association
- Before lighting the fire, it is best to rearrange the fuel again. In this way you prevent the Easter fire from becoming a deadly flame trap for animals that have taken shelter there. You should only use dry plant remains and untreated wood as fuel.
- To protect houses and trees from smoke and heat, the fire should be at least 50 meters away. It is best to keep a distance of at least 100 meters from roads. The German Fire Brigade Association advises that the fire brigade and rescue service should be able to reach the location easily in an emergency.
- Bales of straw have a special charm as seating furniture, but can be really dangerous in a fire. The association warns that the heat radiation alone can ignite the straw.
- Children find fire fascinating. It is all the more important to be careful not to get too close to the fire. If there are minor burns, it is best to cool them immediately under tap water, the temperature of which should be between ten and 20 degrees. If the burn is extensive or if substances are sticking to the skin, you should call 112 immediately.
- Anyone who organizes the fire, for example in their own garden, should only leave the fireplace when it has completely cooled down. It is advisable to keep an eye on the fact that there are no flying sparks after the end of the Easter fire.
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