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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

"Ratschen" – Holy Week in the Banat

My Personal Recollection by Nick Tullius
Published at by Jody McKim Pharr, 16 Mar 2005

          The day before Good Friday was called Gründonnerstag, which means Green Thursday. An unofficial explanation was that people prepared the first spinach from the garden. Which only shows that the climate was a lot more Southern than were I live now (we still have all the snow on the ground). The young boys of the village, especially those also taking turns serving as altar boys in the church, had been looking forward to this day for another reason: on Green Thursday, Good Friday, and Saturday morning they performed the activity called “ratschen.” 

          It is not easy to describe the wooden gizmo called “Ratsche”. The word is easily translated as “rattle”, but it was a rather special type of rattle. Imagine a wooden cylinder (the handle) that could easily be held by a boy about ten to twelve years old, about a foot in length, terminated with a somewhat larger serrated cylinder resembling the well-known steel gear. The cylinder was fitted with a rectangular wooden frame, perpendicular to the handle, and capable of rotating around the handle. In the middle of the wood frame there was a wooden tongue (a thin piece of wood) that rested on the serrated cylinder. Here a picture would be worth a thousand words! Anyway, when you grab the handle and put it into a kind of rotational motion, the rectangular part rotates through the air, and the tongue follows the grooves and hills of the cylinder, producing a loud wailing sound, modulated by the rattling sound (it is hard to describe, you’ve got to hear it). 

          The boys had subdivided the village into quadrants, not too difficult with the symmetric layout of our village plan and each boy was responsible for announcing at each house of his assigned quadrant: the morning prayer call, the evening prayer call, the first call to mass, the second and third call to mass. These were the functions normally carried out by the church bells. The “prayer calls” (“Gebetläute”) were early in the morning and late in the evening; it is said that they also served as orientation aids to any poor soul lost in the limitless lowlands with few points of reference. Since the church bells were silent in for those few days (they had “flown away” to Rome!), the boys certainly performed a valuable service to the community. 

          On Saturday morning the boys collected their rewards. Usually two of them would go from house to house in their assigned quadrant, carrying a large wicker basket, collecting eggs and money. At each house, they recited the following verses, in a kind of sing-song reminiscent of (Heaven help us!) today’s rap:

Summ, summ sajer
Die Hinkle hann die Ajer.
Die Veilche un die Blumme,
De Summer werd bal kumme.
Gibt uns Ajer, gibt uns Geld
Gibt uns nor was Eich gefällt,
Nor ke Schlää, die tun jo weh!
Die Ajer sin gebacke,
Mir hann se heere krache,
Mir han se heere klinge,
Die Jungfrau soll se bringe.
Glick ins Haus, Unglick raus,
Geld oder Ajer raus
Oder a Blumm ans Haus!

Hum, hum say how
The hens have all the eggs now.
The violets and the flowers,
Soon bring summer showers.
Give us eggs or give us coins
Give us what may please you,
Just don’t spank, it hurts our loins!
The eggs, they are all baked now,
We heard how they were cracking,
We heard how they were tinkling,
The young girl should just bring them.
Good luck in, bad luck out,
Bring the eggs or money
Or rotten eggs onto the house!

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