Several towns and villages in the Pfalz will hold celebrations Sunday to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. This is done in different ways. One tradition is to “burn winter,” and another is to have summer day parades and perform summer day plays.
The most popular and biggest summer day parade and play always takes place 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 immigrates from Southern Germany and Switzerland. It has a deep meaning but it 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 the stage.
To show the “fight” between summer and winter, performers dressed as summer and winter houses and armed with sabers made of wood walk the streets to talk about their good qualities before the fight begins.
In one 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.
While singing, Hanselfingerhut swings between the summer and the winter house, all the while looking for a girl from the audience to press a black brand (kiss) onto her face.
All performers keep walking through the streets and perform the play twice before the burning of winter on the Festplatz.
The festival begins in the morning after worship service. On this day, children receive special brötchen, or bread.
This tradition dates back to 1600 when the emperor’s court reader, Felix Christoph Traberger, made a donation.
In a certificate from Sept. 8, 1600, Traberger mentions the good neighborly intents of the mayor and the whole community, which made him donate 40 guilders (former currency) with a two-guilder interest.
The court reader decided that each year on mid-Lent Sunday, brötchen for two guilders must be bought and given to local children. To thank the donor, a prayer must be said for him.
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.
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 will sing spring songs, a band will perform and visitors can enjoy big pretzels on a stick decorated with colored ribbons.
In Frankenstein, a summer day fest and Easter market will take place from noon to 6 p.m. in the school yard and Bürgerhaus.
Goodbye winter celebrations also take place at 10 a.m. in Bissersheim (south of Grünstadt), 1:30 p.m. in Gerolsheim (east of Bissersheim) and 3 p.m. in Dirmstein (northeast of Grünstadt).