Banat | Village Coordinator: Nick Tullius


Birth and Baptism in Alexanderhausen
by Elisabeth Sauer
Translated from Ref. [2] by Diana Lambing

    Up until the Second World War, when everyone still worked as an independent farmer or craftsman, pregnant women worked at their own job until the time of the birth as long as they were healthy. In later years, when everyone had been dispossessed, there were more and more women who worked as employees. By law, these women were allowed three months maternity leave. This leave could be taken beginning six weeks before the birth or else immediately from the time of birth, depending on their wish. After these three months, the young mother would go back to work again full-time and the child would stay at home with the grandmother or great-grandmother, who would look after it. But this was only possible because one normally lived in an extended family, i.e. three generations under one roof.

     We children were always told that babies were brought by the stork, held by the navel and dropped down the chimney. We found this quite believable as there were plenty of storks nests in our village.

     Our ancestors had many children, which was necessary as in those days there were many infectious diseases and epidemics (plague, cholera).

     In the early days there were only home births, in charge of which was the midwife. The doctor was only called if complications set in. During the 1950s maternity homes were set up and women had to give birth there. Alexanderhausen didn’t have one at the time and so the pregnant women had to travel to Billed, Gross Sankt Nikolaus, Lowrin or Temeschburg for the births. The village eventually got its own maternity home, but only for a short time as the State took over most maternity homes shortly afterwards and the women then had to go to the women’s clinic in Temeschburg for births.

     With home births, the midwife looked after the mother and child. She would come for 8 to 14 days to bathe and change nappies for the child. The umbilical cord was tied and cut through with a piece of cotton thread. The child was then dressed in a little shirt, which was tied at the side, and a nappy (usually white and made of ‘Barchent’). In summer the child was covered with a thin cover, in winter with an ‘Inbinkissen’ (a sort of feather quilt), and put in the cradle (kept for many generations) in which it would spend the first two years of its life. Afterwards, it would sleep in a child’s cot.

     Up until around 1920 the newborn child would be baptized on the same day; later, on the first Sunday after the birth (see three attached documents). From the 1940s onwards the day of the baptism would be delayed more and more. If it was a weak and sickly child, the midwife could also carry out an emergency baptism.

     In the early days the rule was that an un-baptized child was not allowed any visitors. After the baptism, on the first visit, one would bring an article of clothing or a toy for the child. One would often hear, “He looks just like his father, but has his mother’s blonde hair and blue eyes”, or “He’s the image of his grandfather but he has his grandmother’s snub nose!”

     The midwife was always present at the baptism. She had the honor of carrying the child into the church, to help at the baptism, and finally to carry the child back home. If it was a boy, he was held by his godfather at the baptism; if it was a girl, by her godmother. The child’s christening dress was usually white, or blue for boys and pink for girls. The child would be baptized with the name of the godparent or parent. After the 1930s these old rules were no longer strictly observed and most children received two Christian names, too. If the child was named Erich-Johann or Hilde-Anna, then it would sound strange to call it ‘Vetter Erich’ or ‘Bessl Hilde’ in Swabian, so one would say ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunt’ instead of ‘Vetter’ or ‘Bessl’.

     The godfather would pay for the christening and godmother would give a present to the child. Girls received golden earrings and boys a baptismal garment, in later years also necklaces were given.



     At baptisms where a band was to play, people gathered at the godfather’s house. From there they went to collect the godmother and then together would go and collect the child to be baptized. If there was no band playing, then they traveled in a coach, if there was one, or else went on foot.

     A tradition in our village was the firing of guns on leaving the church, until the child reached home. At each gunshot the godfather would raise his hat in acknowledgement and thanks. If the procession passed the homes of relatives or acquaintances on the way home, then earthenware pots would be smashed on the road so that the broken pieces would bring good luck to the child.

     The godparents had to make sure they had plenty of sweets and candies on them as these would be generously distributed at the baptism, e.g. all the altar boys, the priest, the vergers, and later the church choir, if they had sung, would all receive a bag of sweets, as well as everyone who had been invited to the baptism.

     Godparents would regularly give gifts to their godchildren at Christmas and Easter up until the child’s 14th birthday and they would later also act as witnesses as marriage ceremonies. 


The Banat | Danube Swabian History | Nick Tullius Files | Join the DVHH Mail List

© 2005 Nick Tullius, unless otherwise noted - Report broken links

Last updated: 26 Aug 2020