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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

New Years Day

By Adam Martini
Translation by son, Hans Martini
[Trenton Donauschwaben Nachtrichten, Jan-March 2003)

    In the everyday life of the Donauschwaben, the winter months were always full of meaning.  The short days and long nights were ideal for the slow rhythms of village life.  This was in stark contrast to the summer season, where work consumed practically all of one's waking hours.  Winter was a time for reflection, a time where one could breathe freely again.  Among other things, the cold season meant it was time for butchering fatted pigs; partaking of culinary favorites like sausage soup; even the newly made wine could now be sampled.  Life was good and most everyone was content. 

     Men would often find their way to the local tavern where cards were played.  Some of their favorite games were "Ziechmariasch" and "Ramscheln".  The women would visit with friends and relatives.  Such socializing was called "maja" in our town and one could be sure that all of the local news would be exchanged - and all while sewing or knitting. There were also many opportunities for children to be part of the action.  One of these I best remember was the New Year's celebration.

     The New Year's tradition of visiting relatives and friends to extend best wishes was the same in Austria as it was in our area of southeastern Europe, if I am not mistaken.  We children had a list of people whom we would call on to wish the best for the New Year.  For this, we would get money and sometimes a gift as well.  Of course, for us the money was a huge plus!  The coins would be thrown into our "money bag" with a noisy jingle, bringing the person good luck.  Money was such a rarity for children back then that it was only spent with the greatest care and was always treated with the utmost respect. Of course, we would also enjoy seeing who could collect the most!

     New Year's was such a wonderful time for all of us back then.  In retrospect, I see so many good reasons to have this type of interaction between young and old.   It was not just the money although for us it seemed so at the time.  Direct contact between young and old just was not part of normal everyday life.  The New Year's handshake with an adult, looking them in the eye and reciting a verse or two was an important and life-affirming experience.  And so it was back then.

     Today, however, money seems to mean far less than it did for children back then.  Surely it is because there is so much more of it and that even children have little trouble getting a hold of it.  One does not speak of saving, or of gratitude and contentment as much as one speaks of more and faster, all with the least amount of effort.  This lack of appreciation often insinuates itself into a life style that is often less than healthy. 

     With this in mind, let me take this opportunity to segue from the Donauschwaben of yesteryear to our Donauschwaben club here in Trenton.  Our organization has always considered the making of money as a necessity, not as a way to obtain profit.  That is why our active members are not paid although they do the work that allows our club to exist.  It is a completely unselfish and most generous thing they do.  All of our guests should know that the dollars they spend for their dinners are dollars that are for the upkeep of the club only.  Maybe that is why our club continues to enjoy that "just like home" feeling, where the food is good and the atmosphere is cordial and relaxed.

     Please continue to support your club.  Come to the dinners and participate whenever and wherever possible.  The doors are open to anyone interested in our German/Donauschwaben culture.  We continue to be a refreshing alternative to an otherwise money-centered and overly materialistic world. 

See you at the Donauschwaben Treffen!

[Published at, Jan 7, 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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