"A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Lebzelter & Easter Customs
for the People of the Village of Bulkes (Batschka)
by Heinrich Hoffmann
Translated by Brad Schwebler

    The occupation of the Lebzelter is a very old and seldom seen craftwork.  Before there were wooden framed honeycombs, the wax with the honey was cut and pressed out of the beehive.  From the honey Lebkuchen (honey cake) was baked and from the wax candles were made.  From it the occupation of the Lebzelter – and the Wachsziehermeisters (wax pulling master) – came into being.

   In the year 1944, before the expulsion of the Donauschwaben, there were 14 tested Lebzelter and Wachsziehermeister.  Since 1935 Lebkuchen has been baked by a master resident in the village of Bulkes.  Before this time Lebkuchen was imported to Bulkes and sold to housewives going from house to house.  Lebkuchen can only be bought from the Bulkes Lebzelter.  The pouring of the candles had no meaning in the pure Evangelical community.  The Lebkuchen in Bulkes had a close connection with the Easter custom, an extraordinary tradition.  In the topo-ethnographic description about customs and traditions from the year 1860 is handed down word for word.

   It is the duty of each godparent to present their godchild with colored eggs and Easter cake on Easter, until the child is confirmed, that is up to the 12th year of life, when they don’t send presents themselves, but they will be collected by him on Easter morning.

   Unfortunately whether this means with the Easter cake Lebzelten is not known.  This custom did not only concern the godparents, but all of the midwives invited to the baptism, relatives, and neighbors.  If the godchild was a male, he was held by the male godparent, the “Ältesten Patt”, over the baptismal stone.  If it was a girl, she was held by the godmother, the “Ältesten Got”, over the baptismal stone.  All other invited “Patten” (men) and “Goten” (women) stood around the altar and each held the godchild briefly on the arm.  The tradition in the Bulkes homeland book lets us know that 1925 one of the largest baptisms took place with 52 invited guests.

    From the second to his twelfth year of life, the year of his confirmation, the baptized child went on Easter Sunday to his “Patten” (godfathers) and his “Goten” (godmothers) to get the “Osterhasen” (Easter rabbits), the “Osterlebkuchen” (Easter Lebkuchen).  Besides money, “Bumransche” (oranges), figs, and colored eggs, there was a doll for the girls and for the boys an Easter bunny or a horse, made from Lebkuchen.

   Bumransche (oranges) were sold by female gypsies, with the “Axeltrage”, a long flexible rod laying over the axle with a basket hanging in front and behind full of Bumranschen (oranges), going house to house.

   Because none of the “Goten” (godmothers) wanted to give the smallest Lebkuchen, some child carried his Easter gift basket with difficulty.  Some parents had to provide the “main” support for their child on the Easter tour.  Whoever had many “Goten” (godmothers) occasionally had to empty the already full basket at home, for the Easter rabbits who still had not visited Goten’s place.  If one godmother or one godfather forgot it came as an insult.  The custom of getting the Easter rabbits was kept until the forceful expulsion of the Bulkes village community in 1945.

   On the average the godmother gave away about 3 kilograms of Lebkuchen to the godfather.  This brought the Lebzelter a considerable turnover in 530 Bulkes households.  To have at his disposal the demanded amount for Easter the Lebzelter already began with his work in January.

   The dough, which consisted only of honey and flour was powerfully kneaded with a kneading level, a special wood construction, and had to rest for eight weeks after that.  The prepared dough made of sugar and flour, and another of syrup and flour, mixed with the honey dough finally produces the Lebkuchen dough.  The dolls, rabbits, and horses pressed out from the rolled out dough were baked in a brick oven on two flat pans.  The smallest Lebkuchen  cost one Dinar, the largest cost ten Dinar.  In the war years because the honey cakes kept longer they were a beloved addition in the field post packages.

   With the seasonal business from January to Easter and for a short time before Christmas with the sale of the Christmas honey pastries, the Lebzelter could not feed his family.  In the remaining times of the year the “Lebzelterspatt” went to work for the farmers as a day worker or as an assistant to the other craftsmen so he could assure his livelihood for himself and his family.

[Published at 16 Mar 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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