Franconia is not only home to the largest cohesive cherry-growing area in the European Union, it is also the land of the Easter wells, a tradition closely connected to the age-old European practice of collecting “March water”.
Until well into the 19th century country maidens used to jealously guard their supply of “March water”, collected at midnight in jugs from the rivers and streams swollen with the melted snow of spring. Washing with it daily, March water was said to ensure a fine, fresh complexion all year round. Allegedly endowed with magical powers, March water was considered to be especially pure and able to cure a variety of ailments as well.
In Franconia, and in the Franconian Switzerland region in particular, March water was known as Easter water and was also alleged to hold the promise of a good harvest without hail and fire damage.
Collecting Easter water was still practised in Franconian Switzerland in the 1950s and 1960s, going hand in hand with an initially pagan celebration of water in the springtime, water at times being a scarce resource in this region of porous limestone hills.
The tradition of decorating wells and fountains with greenery (symbolising luxuriant growth), flowers (an expression of joy), hand-painted eggs (for fertility) and ribbons (symbolising the joy of life) at Easter remains widespread throughout Franconia today.