Germans observe Pentecostal traditions

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Sunday and Monday, Germans observe “Pfingsten,” Pentecost. It’s a religious fest and Monday still is an official holiday in Germany. Stores and official institutions will be closed.

Pentecost comes from the Greek word “pentekoste” which means 50th. Christians celebrate Pentecost, also called Whitsun, the 50th day after Easter, because they believe that’s when God sent down His Holy Spirit.

After receiving the Holy Spirit, the Apostles started spreading the new Gospel into the world. That’s why the fest is also to celebrate the foundation of church.

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 which are 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. Monday at 10 a.m., the parade with the “Quack” in his costume and children carrying colored Pentecost rods, go through Schmalenberg led by a colorful decorated horse. The children sell the collected flowers after the parade and now they go in houses and ask people for eggs, bacon and money.

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.
The biggest traditional Pentecost event in the vicinity is the historical auction of a billy goat in Deidesheim each Tuesday after Pentecost. This is the 602nd time the event takes place. According to a document from 1404 by King Ruprecht, residents of Lambrecht, a neighboring town of Deidesehim, had the right to use the Deidesheim forests as pastureland. Contracts between the former monastery of Lambrecht and the town of Deidesheim mention the people in Lambrecht had to pay for the use of the forests a good-looking billy goat. 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. Throughout the years there was a lot of arguing about the shape and the condition of the billy goat.

In 1808, Napoleon even got involved and signed an edict saying the pasture rights would be granted for a “well horned and capable billy goat.” Between the years 1851 and 1857, the billy goats were not accepted. The case had to be taken to the Zweibruecken court, which decided that in 1858 eight billy goats had to be delivered.

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.

Deidesheim already celebrates Sunday and Monday. Many wineries are open and lure visitors with culinary specialties and local wines. Children can enjoy a carnival. Groups from Sweden, Switzerland and the Canary Islands have an international costume meeting and provide some entertainment. Highlight is a costume parade at 2 p.m. Sunday going through the romantic streets of Deidesheim.

Deidesheim is located on the German Wine Street between Bad Dürkheim and Neustadt.