Germans observe Pentecost Sunday, Monday

by Petra Lessoing
Ramstein Public Affairs

Germans observe “Pfingsten,” or Pentecost, Sunday and Monday. The religious fest takes its name from the Greek word “pentekoste,” which means 50th. Christians celebrate Pentecost, also called Whitsun, the 50th day after Easter as the day when God sent down His Holy Spirit.

After receiving the Holy Spirit, the Apostles started spreading the new Gospel into the world.

In Old Testament times, the fest had a character of a harvest fest and in late Judaism, Pentecost was the day to commemorate the foundation of the Israelites in the Sinai, 50 days after the exodus from under the Egyptian oppression.

Some areas in Germany observe specific Pentecostal customs. In Bavaria, people dress in the national costumes of their region, walk in processions to church and pray for a good harvest. In Franconia, horsemen perform the annual Pentecostal ride. Led by priests, they carry church banners and crosses to church.
In the KMC, the towns of Schmalenberg, Schopp and Queidersbach stick to some Pentecostal traditions.

In Schmalenberg, the boys and men cut branches from pines, birches and brooms and create three skirts, which the so-called “Quack” has to wear from his neck down during the parade through town. He also wears a hat made of thin rods. Sunday afternoon, children go from house to house and collect flowers that get tightened to the hat as well. The men spend the night in a barn, watch the green costume and from time to time they go through town singing the traditional “Quack” song. At 9 a.m. Monday, the parade with the “Quack” in his costume and children carrying colored Pentecost rods go through Schmalenberg led by a colorful decorated horse.

In Schopp, the Pentecostal ride through the village usually starts at 5 a.m. Monday.
In Queidersbach, the equestrian club will start its ride at 2 p.m; a grill fest follows at the local gun club.

Monday is considered an official holiday in Germany. Stores, banks and official institutions will be closed.

The biggest traditional Pentecost event in the vicinity is the historical auction of a billy goat in Deidesheim every Tuesday after Pentecost. For the 605th time, this event takes place. According to a document from 1404 by King Ruprecht, residents of Lambrecht, which is a neighboring town of Deidesheim, had the right to use the Deidesheim forests as pastureland. Contracts between the former monastery of Lambrecht and the town of Deidesheim mention that people in Lambrecht had to pay with a good-looking billy goat for the use of the forests. The youngest citizen of Lambrecht had to take the billy goat to Deidesheim and tie it to the town hall before sunrise the Tuesday after Pentecost. He then received a bottle of wine and a cheese sandwich. In the late afternoon, the billy goat was put up for auction to fill the town’s cash-box.

Today it’s up to the most recently married couple to deliver the billy goat. Together, with the Mayor of Lambrecht and other officials, they walk to the Deidesheim town hall. According to new regulations, they don’t have to arrive before 10 a.m. Tuesday. Here, the Deidesheim city council, school children and groups in national costumes greet the Lambrecht group.

A fest with music, folks group dancing, drinking and eating starts in the afternoon. The traditional auction is from 5:45 to 6 p.m. The prices paid for the billy goat reflect the people’s economical situation. In good years, people paid up to €5,000 for the billy-goat. Last year, €2,600 was paid.