From cakes in the shape of a baby lamb to 'Green Thursday', Easter in Austria can feel a little different. Here's your guide to the festivities.

Easter traditions begin in Austria in the weeks leading up to the big day, as shops and bakeries start to fill up with seasonal goods such as Osterpinzen (a kind of sweet bread roll), Schinken im Brotteig (ham in a bread crust), colourful hardboiled eggs and cakes in the shape of a baby lamb (Osterlamm).

As well as looking cute, delighting children, and tasting nice, Osterlamm has a serious side.

There are lots of different Osterlamm recipes available online – most requiring a lamb-shaped cake form – but the ready-made version is also easy to pick up from certain shops in Austria.

Decorations

Many people decorate their homes with an Easter centrepiece arrangements of Palmkätzchen (also known as Palmbuschen, Palmkatzln, Palmkatzerl or pussy willow in English) and decorated wooden eggs, though some people add other foliage to the decoration.

Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday) is celebrated in Austria by the blessing of Palmkätzchen rather than palms.

An Austrian folk custom says that if you bury these blessed Palmkätzchen, they protect your fields from bad weather during the year.

Green Thursday

Maundy Thursday follows or Gründonnerstag (Green Thursday), as it is known in Austria. It is traditional to eat spinach and other green foods such as kale, herbs or salads on this day, hence the name.

On this day in much of Austria and also in Catholic areas of Germany it is said the church bells fall silent and “fly to Rome”, so children are tasked with making a noise with wooden rattles to announce the times of day and call for church services.

In some parts of Austria, groups of boys walk from house to house with baskets and their ratchets to collect eggs.

Good Friday

Karfreitag (Good Friday) is not really celebrated by Catholics and is no longer a public holiday for Protestants living in Austria.

Easter fires

The most elaborate Easter rituals in Austria are said to be in Styria and Carinthia, where on the Saturday before Easter (Holy Saturday or Karsamstag) it is common to have a bonfire or Osterfeuer outside together with family and friends.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, there will be restrictions on traditional Easter bonfires. In Carinthia they will only be allowed in public between 6am and 8pm in Carinthia.

The number of participants will also be limited.

Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday in Austria, children enjoy Easter egg hunts and a large Saturday dinner and/or Sunday breakfast with ham, coloured eggs, Osterpinzen bread and special cakes. Church bells ring out, having returned from Rome.

A popular game is Eierpecken (egg pecking), in which people bang coloured eggs together until they break. Then the winner has to eat the eggs.

Thelocal.at