Germans observe Pentecostal traditions Sunday, Monday

by Petra Lessoing 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Courtesy photo The traditional billy goat auction in Deidesheim is one of the highlights during Pentecost. The auction takes place at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Courtesy photo
The traditional billy goat auction in Deidesheim is one of the highlights during Pentecost. The auction takes place at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Sunday and Monday, Germans observe “Pfingsten,” or Pentecost. It’s a religious fest, and Monday is considered an official holiday in Germany. Stores, banks 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. Therefore, the fest also represents a celebration for the foundation of the church.

In Old Testament times, the fest had the character of a harvest fest, and in late Judaism, Pentecost was the day to commemorate the foundation of the Israelites in 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 village of Schmalenberg sticks 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 also attached to the hat. The men spend the night in a barn watching the green costume so other men from neighboring villages cannot steal it and present as a trophy. During the night, the men go through town from time to time singing the traditional “Quack” song. Monday at 9 a.m., the parade, with the “Quack” in his costume and children carrying colored Pentecost rods, goes through Schmalenberg led by colorful decorated horses carrying two or three children. The children sell the collected flowers after the parade and go from house to house asking people for donations of eggs, bacon and money. A village fest will begin after the ride.

The biggest traditional Pentecost event in the vicinity is the historical auction of a billy goat in Deidesheim every Tuesday after Pentecost.

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.

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 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 Deidesheim town hall. According to new regulations, they don’t have to arrive before 10 a.m. Tuesday. Here, Deidesheim city council, school children and groups in national costumes greet the Lambrecht group.

A fest with music, folk group dancing, drinking and eating starts in the afternoon. The traditional auction is from 5:45 to 6 p.m. In the last 15 years, the price ranged from €2,000 to €6,000. The prices paid for the billy goat reflect the people’s economical situation. Last year, a company from Shanghai that runs a local hotel paid €4,444 to use the goat as their mascot.

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