Pfalz celebrates arrival of spring, burns winter

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***When spring is on its way, the end of winter will be celebrated. In the Pfalz region, this is the time to say good-bye to winter and welcome spring in different ways. One tradition is to “burn winter;” another one is to have summer day parades and perform summer day plays.

To “burn winter” means to put up piles of wood and straw, light them and wait for them to burn down. The tradition goes back to pagan times, when fires were lit to banish ghosts and demons so spring was able to come.

In Neuleiningen (near Wattenheim, A6), the burning of winter starts with a parade winding through the village at 2 p.m. Sunday. Children sing spring songs, a band plays brass music and visitors can enjoy big pretzels on a stick decorated with colored ribbons.

In Frankenstein, a summer day fest with Easter market takes place Sunday.

The most popular and biggest fest in the area fest to say goodbye to winter is always celebrated the third Sunday before Easter in Forst along the German Wine Street. Forst residents perform a play called “Hanselfingerhut Fest.”

The first performance is at 2 p.m. Sunday near the northern exit of the village and the last performance is at 3:30 p.m. in front of Felix-Christoph-Traberger-Halle.

Historical documentation of the play dates back to 1721. The dramatic play originated in Southern Germany and Switzerland. It has a deep meaning but is spiced with humor and originality. The story is based on the old Teutonic idea of a fight between summer and winter.

The play consists of four scenes and six characters with the village streets as stage.

The first scene shows the fight between winter and summer. Both performers are placed in little cone-shaped houses made of laths and sticks.

The winter house is covered with straw and has a straw cross on top; the summer house is covered with ivy and decorated with a blue and white flag on its top. Both houses have a little hole to look through. The two competitors are armed with sabers made of wood and walk down the street with the house over their head. They talk about their good qualities before they finally start fighting. Summer wins.

In the third scene, the main character of the play, “Hanselfingerhut,” appears. His dress is shabby and his face is smeared with oil and soot. He represents a tramp who lost all his belongings, but still is in the mood for playing tricks on others and teasing young and good-looking girls. While singing he swings between the summer and the winter house, which are about five meters away from each other. He finally is looking for a girl from the audience to press a black brand (kiss) into her face.

Forst is a little village with about 700 residents located between Bad Dürkheim and Deidesheim. It has many vineyards and is well known for its wine.

The village is dominated by typical framework houses and sandstone buildings covered with ivy and vines. The main street, paved with stones, is part of the German Wine Street.