Ostereierbaum, a centuries old tradition in Germany where the branches of trees are decorated with eggs for Easter, is lost for the most part. One couple, however, has been keeping it alive for the past 50 years, with this years’ Easter Egg Tree being their last to honor the tradition.
Volker Kraft Easter Egg Tree
Christa and Volker Kraft with their 2015 Easter Egg Tree, photo © Martin Schutt, EPA
German pensioner Volker Kraft and his wife Christa have been decorating the apple tree in the garden of their Saalfeld, Germany summer home every year since 1965. The couple spends up to four weeks decorating the tree with their collection of 10,000 colorful hand-decorated Easter eggs in preparation for Easter celebrations. Even with 10,000 eggs it is not the largest example however; the record for the largest Easter egg tree was set by Zoo Rostock GmbH, Rostock, Germany who decorated a tree with 76,596 painted hens eggs on 8 April 2007.
above: the tree on the left is the tree the Krafts still decorate today
The Krafts and their family members use ladders to reach the heights of the tree, and hang the eggs working from the inside near the trunk to outside of the tree branches, and from top to bottom. They remove the eggs before the leaves grow to prevent damage to the tree.
Although they began with only 18 plastic eggs in 1965, the number of eggs on the tree has grown over time. Between 1999 and 2011, the family hung an annual average of 7000 new Easter eggs on the tree. Since 2012, the tree has been boasting 10,000 eggs annually.
above: images of Volker Kraft hanging eggs on the tree over the years
The tree has received lots of press over the past decade and the Krafts receive visitors annually. Fans send eggs as gifts to the Krafts all year round.
above: Christa prepares eggs for the tree
Having moved beyond plastic eggs, Christa Kraft started to crochet eggs in different colors and patterns. Far more than 1000 eggs had been crocheted by 2008. Kraft’s daughter Gabriela Rumrich, the painter in the family, created artistic patterns with silver and gold colors. Later landscape and city motifs emerged. Then ladybugs and cockchafer, made from blown-out eggs. Other animals such as mice, fish, turtles, pigs and frogs completed the series.
Below are some of their decorated eggs from over the years as well as a signed egg from Bill and Hilary Clinton:
This year is the final year the Krafts will decorate their tree. Having 10,000 people trample through their property each year had its drawbacks and to keep the tradition alive, about 200 to 500 damaged eggs had to be replaced each year.
above: Visitors coming to see the tree on April 3, 2015
Volker Kraft notes he’ll be 80 in 2016. “I just want to celebrate quietly then.”