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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Danube Swabian Easter Customs

by Jacob Steigerwald
Published at 16 Mar 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr

          At my birthplace of Banat Topola, the church bells in the steeple remained silent from 'Gründonnerstag' (Maundy Thursday) until 'Karsamstag' (the day after Good Friday), for figurative recharging.  As children, we were told that they had flown to Rome for spiritual renewal.

          While the bells were 'absent,' the function of summoning worshipers for masses and to remind the faithful that it was time for praying, so-called 'Ratscher-Buben' ran from house to house along each side of different streets shouting, 'mir ratsche zum erschte, zum zweite, zum dritte Mol in die Mess' (we are rousing for the morning, noon, or evening mass).

          The message of the boys was underscored with a few revolutions of the Ratsche each boy was carrying. Some of them were genuine heirlooms! This wooden instrument makes the sound of a rapidly clicking ratchet. Alternately, the gizmo is also called Rätsche, Schnarre, Klapper, and Karfreitagsrassel.

          The word 'gerewelt' that has been correctly interpreted by participants in some discussions alludes to the activity of ratschen.

          After mass on Karsamstag, two Ratscher-Buben were designated as hoarders, with painted faces for identification. Together, they carried a large utility basket, into which the collected goods were placed as the group of boys walked from house to house to receive their rewards for having served as Ratscher-Buben. Donations generally consisted of money or eggs, with occasional cups of flour, which was placed into a linen sack.

To announce themselves to village residents, the group of boys sang a ditty that went like this (in the local dialect):


Stipp, stipp Staab aus
dr Katz gehn die Hoor aus
Summer, Summer Mai aus,
die Veigle un die Blume,
dr Summer werd bald kumme.
O Leit, o Leit, ihr liewi Leit,
do kummt die heilichi Oschterzeit.
Gibt uns Ajer, gibt uns Geld,
alles, was ihr wollt,
nor khe Schlää, die tun weh.
Ecku, ecku ruschafeh,
heit is torus tambure,
Ajer raus, Glick ins Haus!


Commence spring cleaning,
for cats are already shedding fur.
With May in the offing,
Summer is approaching.
Violets and (other) flowers signal the imminence of Summer.
O people, dear people,
Easter-time is upon us.
Give us eggs or money - anything you want, except beatings, for they hurt.


          No particular meaning was associated with the words in the next two lines, but their mystifying sound may have conjured up supernatural notions. These 'magic' words were followed with best wishes in return for gifts received.

Upon departing, the boys would sing (partly in high German, for reasons of rhyme: 

Wir danken für die Gaben,
die wir empfangen haben.
Lebt wohl, lebt 
wohl, bis uffs anri Johr!

(We thank you for the gifts that were bestowed upon us. Fare well, fare well, until next year.

Alternate versions of this custom can be found in many a Heimatbuch.

Heritage » Traditions » Observances » Holidays/March-April » Danube Swabian Easter Customs


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