Germans observe religious fest, traditions

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Both Americans and Germans can enjoy a long weekend – Americans observe Memorial Day Monday and Germans observe “Pfingsten,” Pentecost or Whitsun.

Pentecost, a religious fest, is celebrated Sunday and Monday. It is an official holiday in Germany. Stores and official institutions will be closed Monday.
Pentecost comes from the Greek word “pentekoste” which means fiftieth. Christians celebrate Pentecost 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 the 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.

Specific Pentecostal traditions are kept in different areas of Germany. 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.

The Pfalz area is well known for the historical auction of a billy goat in Deidesheim Tuesday after Pentecost. For the 604th time this traditional event takes place.

According to a document from 1404 by King Ruprecht, residents of Lambrecht, 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 the people in Lambrecht had to pay for the use of the forests with 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 Zweibrücken 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 start their walk to the Deidesheim town hall at 5:30 a.m. 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 iat 3 p.m. 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, it was sold to Austrian people for €3,700.
Deidesheim is located on the German Wine Street between Bad Dürkheim and Neustadt.

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 a guy, the so-called “Quack” has to wear from his neck 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 tied 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 starts at the entrance to the village coming from Johanniskreuz. Participants, 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 they go from house to house and ask people for eggs, bacon and money. A village fest is scheduled to start after the parade.

In Schopp, the Pentecostal ride through the village usually starts at 5 a.m. Monday.

In Queidersbach, a Pentecost walk starts at 9:30 a.m. Participants meet at the Dorfplatz (village square).

The German automobile club ADAC is asking motorists to expect heavy traffic  on autobahns today when vacationers travel to weekend locations and again Monday when they drive back home.