Village welcomes spring with special play

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The wine village Forst along the German Wine Street says good-bye to winter and welcomes spring with a special fest Sunday.
Each year, on the third Sunday before Easter, also known as mid-Lent Sunday, Forst residents perform a summer day play called “Hanselfingerhut fest” at 2 p.m. The play is more than 200 years old. Historical documents date back to 1721. It’s a dramatic play, which immigrants from Southern Germany and Switzerland brought to the Pfalz. 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 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, while the summer house is covered with ivy and decorated with a blue and white flag on 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 second scene, an officer cadet (ensign), who looks like a mercenary in former times, resolves the fight between winter and summer with the means of judicial power, which lies in his hands.
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 is still in the mood for playing tricks on others and teasing young, 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 searches for a girl from the audience to press a black brand (kiss) into her face.
The fourth and final scene demonstrates how Hanselfingerhut is exhausted and how the barber tries to cure him with a bloodletting on his toe. But he faints and the officer cadet tickles him with his sword.
Hanselfingerhut wakes up again and eats fresh pretzels to recover.
All performers keep walking through the streets and re-perform the play in effigy before the burning of winter on the Festplatz.
Actually the fest starts in the morning, when after worship service, special brötchen are given out to the children of the village. 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. There are also many vintners’ premises, which are more than 100 years old. The main street, paved with stones, is part of the German Wine Street.