AH grew up in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany and attended these Easter fires throughout her childhood.
“Leute in vor allem ländlichen Gegenden sammeln Holzmaterial und Buschwerk und türmen es möglichst hoch auf. Es soll weithin sichtbar sein. Es entsteht ein Wettstreit um das höchste Feuer. Am Karsamstag wird es angezündet. Das Dorf versammelt sich dann um das Feuer, es gibt Bier, Glühwein und Würstchen.”
People from all the surrounding rural areas gather wooden material and shrubbery and pile it as high as possible. It should be able to be seen from far and wide. There is a contest for the highest fire. On Karsamstag (Holy Saturday, the day before Easter) it is lit. The village gathers around the fire, there’s beer, mulled wine, and sausages.
This part of the Easter festival celebration in northern Germany seems very useful for promoting unity and connection within a town. Because the villages compete for the tallest fire, the one that can be seen from the farthest distance away, this creates an in-group out-group boundary. Also, since gathering the materials for the highest bonfire takes time and work, the townspeople must work together, as they wouldn’t be able to achieve this highest fire on their own. Then, on the evening before Easter, when the fire is lit, this festival ritual turns into a communal gathering place for the village people. Beer, mulled wine, and sausages are all extremely common foods in northern Germany, and are generally associated with any festivals and gatherings, or seen as something like ‘fair food.’