Museum program shows how German culture influenced Easter in America

April 23, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Historic Sites Facilitator John Bryan tells the story of the Easter egg tree to Ron Stoner and Greta Brunschwyler in the Master bedroom of the Hager House on Saturday.
Chris Tilley, Staff Photographer

The ancient German tradition of switching would not have sat well with Sierra Slick.

Sierra, 7, of Martinsburg, W.Va., learned of the tradition during the German Easter Tour on Saturday at Jonathan Hager House in Hagerstown's City Park.

Historic Sites Facilitator John Bryan said the Monday following Easter is the day of switching, a custom based on pre-Christian fertility rites.

"Carrying their rods of pussy willow or leafy branches, the boys go in little groups from house to house, apply these switches to all women, and receive small presents in reward," Bryan said.

On Tuesday, Bryan went on to say, girls were to retaliate.

But Sierra still didn't like it.

"If a boy hit me with a pussy willow stick, I would punch him," she said.

Sierra's grandparents Fred and Sissy Slick of Keedysville took her, along with her sister Laci, 5, on the tour.

"Sierra loves school. We thought this was something that would interest her," Fred Slick said.

Bryan said the German Easter Tour, now in its seventh year, has attracted the attention of many area residents. More than 100 people participated in about 20 tours over the course of its three-day run.

"I think people are curious about how some traditions got started. They want to know how our German culture influenced Easter here in America," Bryan said. "This is something different. They don't get this anywhere else."

Twins Angelica and Anni Hultsch, 31, of Hagerstown, attended with their mother Susan Hultsch, 60, also of Hagerstown.

Angelica Hultsch said she was fascinated to learn that pretzels were once a special Lenten food.

Easter traditions traced back to German culture during the tour included the Easter Bunny, egg dying and decorative egg trees.

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