Email samples from the Banat mailing list discussing Banat
seasons and customs.
These samples were compiled and Submitted by Angie Geml
Good Morning Group:
I have been trying to recompile the yearly history or the events that would
take place during a typical year in a Banat village. Am I missing anything.
The month of May was a nice time of year for the young men. On the first
Sunday of May, they decorated a MAY tree, at the end of the month, dance
would be held. A big Rosemary tree was decorated with colorful streamers and
attached to the top of a tall pole. The young men wore hats also decorated
with streamers and chose one of the young ladies as their escort. They had
all the privileges during this time since everybody knew they would soon have
to enlist Children were always born at home, with the help of a midwife. Usually, the
child was baptized the first Sunday after its birth. A baby was never taken
out of the home before its baptism because if anything happened and it died,
it would have to be buried as a heathen. Parents ensured that this did not
A godmother and a godfather were chosen and this was a great honor. These
two and the midwife carried the baby to the church on Sunday afternoon. A
band accompanied them to and from the church, and the children in the village
ran behind, chanting: "Sweet godmother, sour godfather" Naturally, the
godfather had to throw candy as he walked and the children gathered this up.
For six weeks, the babies were wrapped tightly in a feather pillow with hands
and feet securely inside in order for them to grow straight.
If a child died, young men and girls, who were close friends of the family,
carried it to the cemetery. The boys wore a wide White sash from their
shoulders to the hip, and the girls wore a white bow in their hair. The
adults rode in a black carriage that was used only for this occasion. It was
decorated with either silver or gold on the ends. Two black horses pulled
the carriage from the deceased house to the cemetery, followed by the people
of the village, would be praying and singing.
On January 1st New Years Day, The men and the children would make the rounds
of our Lansleid neighbor's homes sampling the strudels and cookies, the men a
schnapps and everyone wishing a "Happy New Year (in German of course) and the
children recited poems they had learned and were awarded with gifts of money.
Each child wanted to do his /her best. (Some time the children would recite
a verse like "I wish, I wish, I know not what, but reach in your pocket and
give me something!" -In German of course) By the time they got back home
that day, they men were usually somewhat inebriated. While the men and
children were out doing this, a Pork Roast and Onions would be in the oven
back home, sauerkraut on the stove and the Dumplings ready to cook when the
callers came back home. The men and the children would have been dressed in
there Sunday Clothes for the trip around the village
January 6th was a church holiday- Three Kings. These where Kaspar, Mechior,
Baltazar. Three young men dressed as these ancient kings and went from house
to house, looking for the baby Jesus. After they performed their songs and
poems, they were presented with gift from each household.
During the winter months, in the villages as well as in the towns, there were
all kinds of activities. When the livestock and other business had to be
attended to, there were happy times. The young people learned new songs,
national dances and theater. Everybody, especially the parents, enjoyed the
results of this. There were festivals then came carnival, which was the last
festival before Easter. This lasted for three days, but came the very solemn
season of lent.
The weeks before lent were very church-oriented and the churches were very
busy preparing for Easter. On Holy Thursday, the church bells were silenced.
Schoolboys were delegated to each street and, with noisemakers in their
hands, ran from house to house, announcing the time. They also recited the
following: "people, People, its time to Pray." This went on continuously
until Holy Saturday, when, for their efforts they received Easter eggs and
some money or gift from each household.
On Good Friday at 3:00 p.m., everything in the church was put away, and the
people of the villages marched to the graves to pray. On Holy Saturday
evening, Instead of a Sunday morning, Jesus ascension was celebrated. At
8:00 p.m., a procession wind its way through the village, accompanied by
prayer, songs, and music. The church bells were rung again and the church
was lit up, much to the relief of all the People.
In the fall (Herbst), during the second weekend in November, "kirchwieh" was
celebrated. This began on Saturday night, and continued until Tuesday night.
However, church was not to be forgotten or ignored, so the festivities were
interrupted to attend mass. Again it was time for the young boys up to age
20 to be dressed up in highly decorated hats and chose their partners, but
now unlike at other times everybody who chose could participate. Theis was a
time where the young people as well as their parents were involved in fun and
Actually the whole village was involved. Everybody was dressed in their best
clothes and they were dancing in the afternoon and evening. The
mothers/women sat around the dance floor and the fathers/men were next door
playing cars, drinking, dancing, etc. Usually, pork was prepared for this
festival. The bouquet was made of rosemary, decorated with colorful
streamers and then raffled or auctioned off for a sizable sum that went to
November 25th was designated St. Catherine's Day and signaled the beginning
of Advent. All music was silenced and preparations for Christmas were made.
This was always a nice time for the villagers and their families not because
of the coming of the holiday and presents but rather the festive atmosphere.
If presents were received they were small and homemade and usually from the
The Christchild came on the day before Christmas Eve. There would be five
girls and one boy dressed in white. One represented the Christchild who
carried a small crib with a baby boy inside. The others were the angels.
The boy would represent Joseph. As they went from house to house, they would
ask: "Will you let the Christchild in?" The small children in the houses
were excited by this and watched in awe or wonderment. The Christchild then
proceeded to take the little children into another room in the house where
the decorated tree stood. There were always some naughty children who the
parents who were receive a switch instead of a gift. The presents consisted
of figs, apples, nuts, candy, and gingerbread dolls. The girls received
cookies in the shape of a doll and the boys got one in the shape of a horse.
They were white or a dark color decorated with colored sugar. Sometimes,
there were other presents; however, these were always of a practical nature.
The godparents played a big role during the holidays since they always
arrived with presents. Every godchild looked forward to this and was
genuinely appreciative. (What a difference between the image of a godparent
and Now!) Do you know your Godparents and do you interact with them or if
you are a Godparent do you see or talk or associate with your Godchildren
more than usual?
When the time came for marriage. The parents made the decisions. Often, two
young people were in love; however, the parents would not allow the union.
Material possessions meant a great deal, and sometimes, the parents had been
at odds since their own youth. This resulted in arranged marriages and love
had no part. The parents were always the decision-makers. Of course, there
were also marriages were loved ruled. If the family had a great deal of
material worth, land, animals, harvest then an arrange marriage would take
place but if the family was poor, peasants or working for others love always
came first. Divorce was very rare. If both sets of parents agreed, the
fathers, Godfathers and the bride and groom went to the town hall to
register. The wedding usually took place about three weeks later with the
most immediate family present. One way around the wedding ceremony was to
sneak around and have the girl become pregnant and to have the child
delivered and then either gets married after the parents would give their
permission. Sometimes it would take a second child to be born for this to
First, the couple would be married in a church, and then a civil ceremony.
If there were only 25-30 guests, then the wedding took place in a home, where
the food was also prepared. One room would be emptied of furniture and
someone would play the accordion or a string instrument. The witnesses to
the ceremony were always the godparents who took their responsibilities very
seriously. The bride was dressed in black. After the ceremony, the young
wife had to wear a kerchief around her neck and across her head to signify
her marital status. In the 1930s, the brides began coming into the 20th
century and began wearing more colorful dresses. In the country area away
from towns like Gross-Beterserek, the girls and women wore long skirts but in
the larger towns like GB or Novi Sad, Knician, the women wore shorter
dresses, then they also began wearing more white wedding dresses bought by
out of town stores. Even though the stores in the villages or Sartcha,
Ernsthausen, Klek, Johannisfeld, Kathreinfeld, Neusin, Sigmundfeld, Botos,
Modosch, has clothing stores that sold.
Like so many others have said, my grandmother too had her ears pierced as a
baby and like Shirley Gibbard wrote, my grandmother pierced ears by using a
potatoe and needle. Sometime instead of gold buttons they would use string
in place of earings.
I just finished readying a wonderful book, "Back to the Banat" by Victor
Wendl, and it reminded me of so many customs and traditions observed by my
grandparents and family members. For instance, my grandmother never sliced a
loaf of her wonderful homemade bread without first making the sign of the
cross on the bottom (mentioned in the book too).
Most of our family traditions seemed to center around food, good old German
cooking.....speaking of which I found a wonderful Hungarian cookbook at:
homepage.interaccess.com/~june4/ that I've ordered. The recipies took me
right back to my grandmother's kitchen with all those wonderful foods!
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 15:13:38 -0400
From: MaryAnn Unger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Steve, et al,
Yes, poppy-seed pacifiers were used frequently -- for cholic, when
mothers worked in the fields, etc. If too much poppy seed were used,
problems did arise, however. My great aunt recalled having one of her
children "overdose" and having difficulty awakening the child.
As to malnutrition -- I'm no expert, but there were years of bad
harvests, field crops were ruined during wars (e.g., Hungarian
Revolution), and if parents were ill because of an epidemic -- then
naturally the children would not receive enough food. Remember that not
all villages were created equal -- some had better cropland and better
water supplies, or were more prosperous, hence, lower infant mortality
I had been doing a study of infant death rates in Engelsbrunn (near
Arad) from 1760 to 1945 and there was definite correlation between high
infant mortality rates years in which there were epidemics of "swamp
fever" (Typhus), Cholera, Diptheria, etc.
Mary Ann Unger