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The Easter Fires | Fredericksburg Texas

Updated on February 12, 2015
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about American life, holidays, politics and other topics. She has written hundreds of articles for online & print publications.

The Legend of the Easter Fires in Fredericksburg Texas

How Fredericksburg Texas Celebrates Easter

While Easter traditions in other small towns might include parades and photo ops with the Easter Bunny at the local mall, for several decades (off and on), Fredericksburg Texas has celebrated Easter by lighting fires, and the whole town turns out for the event.

Fredericksburg is located in the Hill Country, on the edge of Central Texas, slightly more than an hour outside of Austin. The town is known for its German heritage, for the Nimitz museum, and for great German food. But it's also known for one of the most charming and silly Easter festivals ever created, the Easter Fires.

Almost every year, since 1948, hundreds of townsfolk dressed as pioneers, Indians and, yes, Easter Bunnies to recreate the story of how the fires became a local legend.

However, the origin of the Easter Fires and the legend the festival commemorated isn't entirely one of bunnies and baskets of candy. Instead, it stems from a tense night during the early days of settling the area, when relations with local Indians weren't yet calm.

Texas Hill Country Pioneer Story | The Easter Fires

Pioneers in Fredericksburg Texas created a legend about Indian fires in the surrounding hills.
Pioneers in Fredericksburg Texas created a legend about Indian fires in the surrounding hills.
Texas Jack Rabbit. Not the Easter Bunny, but part of the legend!
Texas Jack Rabbit. Not the Easter Bunny, but part of the legend!
Indian Smoke signals scared early Texas pioneers in Fredericksburg.
Indian Smoke signals scared early Texas pioneers in Fredericksburg.

The History of the Easter Fires in Texas

In the 1840s, Germans migrated to Texas in increasing numbers. When they got to the beautiful Hill Country, a community of the immigrants decided to settle and begin farming. Along with finding themselves in one of the most scenic areas of the state, they soon learned they were deep into Comanche territory. Although a treaty was eventually struck (one known for bringing peace to both sides, with neither party violating its terms), there was considerable fear and tension when the settlers first moved into the area.

Comanche leaders were understandably guarded and not yet trusting the newcomers, after their previous encounters with people from the Old World. Although the Germans seemed primarily interested in building homes and farming the land, they were watched warily from the hills surrounding the new settlement. Leaders of the new settlement arranged a meeting with the tribal chiefs to discuss a treaty, while the settlers below watched the hills in fear, waiting for a sign that they were safe.

As the story goes, Comanche scouts watched from a distance and communicated through smoke signals sent from hill to hill. Eventually, the legend claims, a treaty was reached, and the signals indicated all was well. However, the settlers, seeing the fires and smoke, didn't know the meaning of the signals, which increased their tension.

According to the legend, as the fires burned in the distance, and the sky filled with smoke, a young mother created a story to calm her terrified children. The children had seen the gigantic Jack Rabbits for which Texas is known, and since the family was from Germany, the mother wove a tale combining a German tradition of lighting fires at Easter with the large rabbits.

The fires were for Easter, she told them, and the rabbits were boiling water to dye eggs. Then she encouraged them to go to bed and await the eggs they would get in the morning.

Whether the story is completely true or not, the legend continues that upon the return of the menfolk from the treaty meeting, the new town indeed had reason to celebrate, and the next day's events included colored eggs, hidden for the children to discover amongst the trees, brush and cacti dotting their new homeland.

Rabbit Costumes During the Easter Fire Celebration

Grown-ups in Central Texas are serious about the Easter Bunny.
Grown-ups in Central Texas are serious about the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny Left Carrots by the Road

After finding a bunch of carrots on the roadside while watching the Easter Fires, I'm a believer!
After finding a bunch of carrots on the roadside while watching the Easter Fires, I'm a believer!

How the Easter Fires are Celebrated in Central Texas

The story of the Easter Fires soon became entrenched in the folklore of what would become Fredericksburg. By 1948, a pageant was created, complete with a script and parts for hundreds of people, who would play the Indians, settlers, and best of all, the bunnies.

Several years ago, a group of friends and I drove out to Fredericksburg to see part of the pageant. I confess we were skeptical, and expected something a bit schmaltzy. It was indeed a somewhat schmaltzy festival, but one so fun and tongue-in-cheek that it beguiled you in its innocence and abandon.

Our favorite part was when we learned that many dozens of people donned full rabbit costumes to play a part in the festival. The Indian outfits and the pioneer clothes were entertaining as well, but the rabbits? Priceless.

We drove around for a while, and then stopped for dinner. While we dined, we visited with some of the locals while we had terrific German food at one of the many restaurants for which the town is known. Oh yes, we were assured, the Easter Fires pageant and celebration was for real, and even the most stoic of Germans in the area could be convinced to don ears and a fluffy tail each year.

As we left town, we stopped at an overlook above the pageant site, just to see how it looked from a distance. When we got out of the car, we found absolute proof that there is, indeed, an Easter Bunny.

There, lying on the ground at the edge of the road, was a bunch of carrots, complete with the greens still attached.

How to get to Fredericksburg, Texas

A markerFredericksburg, Texas -
Fredericksburg, TX 78624, USA
get directions

Fredericksburg, Texas is about 70 miles southwest of Austin, in the Central Texas Hill Country.

Easter Fires Have Returned to Fredericksburg

Around 2005, the group sponsoring the huge pageant production discontinued it, due to the huge expense and logistics of putting on such a major event with few resources (other than a town full of people who were more than happy to dress like rabbits).

Recently, though, Central Texans were happy to learn the festival would be revived. The legend of the fires is a beloved story, and Central Texans are proud of the fact that Austin isn't the only city known for having a bit of weird and whimsy. Fredericksburg gets my personal vote for having the coolest Easter celebration I've ever heard of.

The Fredericksburg Events Calendar is a good source for the latest information on this year's Easter Fires.

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  • moneyfairy profile image

    moneyfairy 4 years ago

    LOL :) Glad you enjoy it!!!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Moneyfairy! Wow - how sweet of you to track down the hub and read it! The Easter Fires in Fredricksburg are such fun - you haven't lived until you've seen 300 adults excitedly running around in their rabbit suits!

  • moneyfairy profile image

    moneyfairy 4 years ago

    Very interesting Marcy. Thanks for directing me to this hub from my Easter forum :) Happy Easter to you however you celebrate it!!!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
    Author

    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Yay!!! I will update the hub to welcome back that tradition! Thanks for the heads-up, Tsharp!

  • profile image

    Tsharp 4 years ago

    Easter fires are back this year!! March 30th at the fairgrounds. $10 a person :)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Marcojour - I'm sad they had to suspend it, too. Let's hope it's just a 'for now' thing and we can one day see those big bunnies again!

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Marcy--

    This was a most endearing read of a charming tradition. Hoping that one day it can be 'resurrected' (and I do not even mean to make that pun...) as it sounds like much fun for the whole family.

    Voted UP & AB. Hope you had a peaceful day. Hugs, mar.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Wouldn't that have been a fun family event? Thanks for reading and commenting, RealHousewife!

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Too bad they had to stop! It sounds like a very neat tradition...I think my kids would have loved to see that:).

    Up and everything!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Happy Easter to you, too, Sunshine! Yes, seeing hundreds of adult bunnies is hilarious. Kind of endearing, too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Very interesting! I never heard about this before. I can't imagine all the adults in bunny suits and it's not even halloween. Happy Easter!:)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Outbound Dan - I have to say, the image of hundreds of adults in bunny suits is pretty compelling. Hope the dancing rabbits give you a break from the dancing! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Outbound Dan profile image

    Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

    Thanks, now I'm going to have visions of an Easter Bunny with a flaming torch dancing in my head. As if the Easter Bunny wasn't already freaky enough, now he has fire!

    However, I really do love quirky community celebrations like this; it is what makes America a pretty cool place to live.

    Great Hub!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    What a wonderful heritage you have, alocsin! I love that area, and I'm jealous that I didn't grow up here in Texas. But I got here as fast as I could. I'm hopeful that the Easter fires will be revived sometime. They were indeed a huge production, so I can understand the strain on the community. Last year's fire storms probably didn't need any additional sparks, though.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

    My ancestors were part of that group that immigrated to Texas in the 1840s to Giddings, near Austin. I'm sorry to hear this novel celebration is no longer practiced. Voting this Up and Interesting.

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