I already talked a little about my Holy Week. But the awesome thing is that the fun didn’t end there!
Holy Saturday was appropriately low-key. I cleaned my apartment, I ate the rest of my hot cross scone, I cooked in preparation for the next day’s barbecue, I got a little bit of work done (booooo!), and I tried to stay in the anticipatory mindset of the holiday. Then I put on my Easter-iest outfit that could still conceivably include tights and a sweater because it somehow got really cold last week, and went to meet Felicitas and Nathaniel for the Easter Vigil!
I love the Easter Vigil but I hadn’t actually been for a few years. I had gotten a tip from a friend to get there 45 minutes early, at least, if we wanted a good seat. So we got there around 50 minutes early feeling super on top of it only to find an almost completely full church! We grabbed what seemed to be the last 3-person-sized spot available, in the second-to-last row. So we waited, we saw the light slowly dim outside, we scrutinized our liturgy program for the Vigil and compared the English and German translations of the psalms and responses.
The Mass itself was beautiful. There’s just nothing better than the lights finally coming on and the bells ringing as you sing the Gloria. Pure joy. When I finally made it home around midnight, I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so hyped up and joyful.
However, it was important that I get to sleep somewhat on time because my Easter Sunday started bright and early! I was meeting my host parents near their house in Bühlau, 40 minutes away, at 8 the next morning, so I did plan on waking up early, but the lovely church on my block had other plans for me… when it decided to ring its bells for a good 20 minutes at 5 AM as opposed to its usual 7! Regardless, I was on my way bright and early. The Brauns picked me up from the bus stop and we headed north of Dresden to see the Osterreiter.
The Osterreiter (Easter Riders) is an annual parade, of sorts, that happens every Easter in the Sorbian region north of Dresden. The Sorbs are an ethnic minority that live in the area around Bautzen, about an hour from Dresden; they speak a Slavic language, Sorbian, that to me sounds a lot like Polish but I’m sure it’s quite different. The Osterreiter are men from the area who don traditional dress every Easter morning and ride horses along stretches of the region, processing around churches in each town, all the while singing Easter hymns in German and Sorbian.
It was quite a sight to behold!
It was really cool to me to see how this ethnic minority passes its culture down to the younger generation… there were Reiter of all ages, and you could tell which of the younger boys were riding for the first time because they wore special green wreath pins.
We ended up seeing the Reiter in three different towns… twice on purpose, and once because, as we tried to drive back to Dresden, the road was blocked because the parade was scheduled to come through any minute, so we figured we should go ahead and watch them again!
It was also really cool being in the Sorbian region because it’s a heavily Catholic area. The Sorbs are Catholic, and nearly all of the houses in each town had yellow and white “Catholic” flags hanging about, or alcoves with statues of Jesus and Mary displayed, or crucifixes or statues of saints along the streets (like I used to see in very-Catholic Baden-Württemburg). It’s crazy the different culture and lifestyle that exists only about half an hour away!
Besides seeing the Osterreiter, the Brauns and I had a very lovely day. We stopped for a little picnic between watching the parades–Frau Braun had baked an Easter loaf, which was delicious, and we ate fruit and drank juice and tea and it was perfectly lovely (though it would have been smart of me to eat breakfast before leaving).
Herr Braun’s daughter Gaby was with us for the day, too… I think she’s a year or so older than me and I enjoyed talking to her about agriculture (she’s an avid gardener and studies agricultural topics, which is a “fringe” academic interest of mine) and cultural exchange (she’s been an au pair in England and Italy).
We also stopped at the Neschwitz Castle nearby. As far as castles go, it wasn’t incredibly large — which was good for our short little quarter-of-the-day trip. A noble family used to live in the house, and it was undamaged during the war (if I remember correctly).
On our way back to the car, the “Easter Bunny” hid some chocolate for all of us — so we had a little hunt on the grounds. I came away with a nice stash of chocolate eggs for the week (or however long they last… we’ll see).
I headed back to my apartment in just enough time to check my e-mail, grab the cole slaw [with bacon] I’d prepared the day before, and meet Flitzi and Nate, again, to head to our Easter barbecue! We were the only ones of our friends who didn’t go home for Easter, so we created our own party and invited a few other international folks Felicitas had met at a DAAD conference last weekend. It was a fun time! We ate a lot, talked a lot (in English, score after a full morning of German conversations) and had a wonderful time! I’m glad that grillen season is here, because the Germans love nothing more than grilling up some bratwurst while drinking beer and I am very much in favor of this pastime.
On Monday, still a holiday in Germany, the celebrations continued, if you can imagine! Still among our small group of “lonely English speakers,” we had a perfectly lovely Easter brunch. Omelets, English breakfast tea, leftover cake, and sparkling wine from Felicitas’ family’s winery in western Germany… perfection.
Easter is faaaar from over… it’s still the Easter Octave, so technically it’s still Easter Sunday until next week! (Yay Catholicism!) So my Easter will still include a trip to Rome for the double canonization this weekend, and a reunion with Daniel and my friend Wayne! You can bet I’ll be writing about that, too, so stick around! 🙂