On the Saturday before Easter, it’s German tradition to light a huge bonfire – the so-called Osterfeuer, or Easter Fire.
Supposedly the fire is to ward off the evil spirits of winter, and celebrate the coming of spring.
To see my first Easter Fire, some friends and I drove to a large dike (the Zollenspieker Hauptdeich) near Hamburg Allermöhe. The Freiwillige Feuerwehr (Volunteer Fire Department) was there to direct traffic, take donations, and, later, ignite the blaze. We took a short walk along the banks of the Elbe river before staking out a spot and waiting for the fun to begin.
Nearby, a handful of tents and kiosks were set up, selling snacks such as sausages and French fries, candied almonds, and of course, beer. It gave the event a festive atmosphere.
Nearly half an hour after sundown, when we were starting to shiver, two firefighters carrying torches finally marched down towards the pile.
After taking plenty of time to circle the pile several times and empty their bottles of beer, they finally lit the pile.
The blaze was so hot, you couldn’t stand within 20 feet of it.
Easter Fires have faced some scrutiny in recent years, not in the least due to the increased risk of forest fires due to climate change-induced unusually hot, dry, weather, but also for the risk they pose to wildlife – namely, birds and small mammals.