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Benedictine monks preparing to light the Christ candle prior to Easter Vigil mass
People watching an Easter Fire in Eibergen on Easter Sunday, 2006
An Easter Fire in Onstwedde on the Monday after Easter Sunday, 2004

Easter fires are typically to bonfires lit before, during, or after Easter Sunday as part of secular and religious celebrations.


Easter Vigil

Fire can feature prominently during solemn Easter Vigil celebrations held after sunset on Holy Saturday. Such a fire might be used to light a Paschal candle or other candles used symbolically before or during mass or other religious celebration.[1][2][3]

In Fredericksburg, Texas, each year the residents have Easter Fires the night before Easter, commemorating a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians. In 1847 when the original treaty was signed, the Comanches lit signal fires on the area hills. One mother calmed her children's fears, telling them the smoke came from the Easter Bunny who was dyeing eggs.[4] This tradition is more akin to the Northern European fires discussed below than the solemn Easter Vigil fires mentioned above.

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday

On Easter Sunday and on Easter Monday, large fires are lit at dusk in sections of Northwestern Europe. This practice extends northward into Denmark, Sweden and Finland, westward into the east of the Netherlands, southward into Switzerland and Austria, and eastward into the German Harz mountains. In the Netherlands, most of these fires take place in the provinces of Drenthe, Groningen, and Gelderland, with the largest being in Twente, a part of Overijssel.

It is a Saxon, pre-christian tradition, that is still performed each year. There are several explanations of the meaning of these fires. The Saxons probably believed that around the time of Easter, spring becomes victorious over winter. The fires were supposed to help chase the darkness and winter away. It was also a symbol of fertility, which works in a literal sense in that the ashes were scattered over the meadows and thereby fertilised the soil. The pre-Christian meaning of Easter fires is hardly experienced anymore. Nowadays they are meant to bring the community together, which guarantees a pleasant night combined with the consumption of gin or lager and snacks.

Some municipalities hold an annual competition to build the highest, or the neatest fire. The hamlet of Espelo in the municipality of Rijssen-Holten holds the world record with an Easter fire that measured 27 meters high.

See also


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