Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pomeranian Wedding Customs

"Das Aufgebot" refers to the posting of the banns prior to a marriage. Banns were posted on three consecutive Sundays before the marriage by both the bride's and the groom's pastors. The purpose for these banns was to bring attention to the congregation in order to elicit possible reasons as to why the marriage should not take place. It also was to encourage prayers from the congregation on behalf of the couple to be married.

A few weeks before every Pomeranian peasant wedding the Hochzeitbitter, (bridal boy) was on his way to invite the many guests to the wedding.  He was usually the younger, unmarried brother of the bride. He was dressed in Pommerscher Trachten (a Pommern folk costume) or a dark suit. His hat was decorated with a bouquet of flowers and colorful ribbons. He wore a little bunch of flowers in his buttonhole. In addition, green and white ribbons fluttered from the staff that he carried. He was welcomed in every house. He would stand in the living room and recite the invitation in verse form, either in High or Low German. Usually he ended with "You have accepted the invitation and will certainly attend the wedding." As payment for the invitation he would receive drink of Schnapps. A sign that the invitation was accepted a colorful handkerchief would be pinned on the back of his jacket. He wore these handkerchiefs on the day of the wedding, where he was the one to receive the guests or he helped to serve them.
On the evening before the wedding the young people made much noise as possible in order to frighten the evil spirits.

Neighbors and children could be depended upon to show up unannounced. Sometimes they brought chickens as gifts. These were then prepared for the wedding dinner.  Children would recite Polterabend verses and present the bride and the groom with small presents.

Tricks were often played on the bridal couple. A common one was to put a baby buggy on the top of the roof. It was not always easy for the groom to get it down again. Many times the guests would break pottery as a simple of a peaceful marriage for the bridal couple. The couple was expected to clean up all the broken pottery shards before sunrise and to bury them behind the house. This would be a sign of a peaceful marriage.

The  Pomeranian weddings usually took place on Friday. The first guest would arrive about 10 A.M. At the gate to the barnyard there would be a band to welcome them. Most guests came by coach. This custom was called the " Zur Hochzeit Einspielen". Each arriving party was expected to give a tip to the musicians.

The groom was not allowed to see the bride before the church door was reached. Her mother and her sisters helped the bride to dress. The bride wore black as seen in all the wedding pictures of the immigrants in the Claussen family. This custom was also followed in Schleswig Holstein.

The bride arrived at the church in a wagon decked with flowers. After the ceremony the bride and the groom would walk around a breiten stein (a huge field stone). In some places these were old graves. These were places to ask for a blessing from their ancestors. The bride would climb to the top of the stone and call out: " Here I stand all alone on a field stone whoever loves me, brings me down." Then the bridegroom would have to climb up and the two would begin a bridal dance.

After wards, the entire party returned home to a generous holiday type meal. There are a large number of chickens which had been killed so that "Das Glueck Gackern" ("happiness would cackle").

At the end of the meal, the cooks would recite a verse and collect their
" Kuekschengeld" (tip). Their verse would end with the words: " I want to thank you for the gift, but you should remember that the blessing comes from above". Then there would be dancing until midnight. The bride was expected to dance with every male attending. The groom would dance with every female guest. Every couple would tip the musicians again, so that they would continue to play until morning.

At the end, the wreath dance takes place. Every bachelor would try to get the bride's wreath away from her and her groom would do his best to prevent this from happening. In some parts of  Pommern the young unmarried girls would try to catch the bride's wreath and veil. Whoever succeeded was expected to be the next bride.

The last dance of the morning was the broom dance. The young men and women would stand facing each other. A young man would ride the broom between the couples, let it fall and find himself a partner. Whoever was left over would dance with the broom.

On the Sunday after the wedding, there was a party. The young couple would have to serve their guests in order to demonstrate that they could be generous hosts. This was an opportunity to see the gifts and the bride's trousseau.

On Tuesday after the wedding these gifts would be loaded onto a farm wagon and driven to the groom's farm. Sometimes a rooster was stolen from the bride's farm and would be let loose in the groom's barnyard. Everyone would watch the gift rooster fight with the rooster on the groom's farm.

It was a belief that depending upon which rooster won signified which of the bridal couple would rule the marriage in the future.


Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002

The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Funeral Customs in Pommern

In Vor Pommern, death was not something to fear, but it was seen as something inevitable. So to assist the dying to bridge the path to the other world, the Pastor was called to administer the last sacrament. When the final hour was near, the members of the immediate family would gather around the deathbed. All the windows were opened so there would be no obstacle to prevent the soul from going directly to heaven. A prayer was said and an appropriate song was sung. When death came, all the clocks in the house were stopped and the mirrors were covered. A mirror was an object of earthly vanity and was no longer needed. Covering the mirrors with a black cloth was believed to ban satanic powers.

At noon the following day, the church bell would ring at three different intervals. The gravediggers, usually the neighbors, had already left for the cemetery to prepare the grave. As soon as the sod was cleared the bells would ring for the first time. When half the digging was done, the bells would ring a second time. As soon as the work was done, the bells would ring the third and last time. Work stopped at each of the ringing of the bells.

The deceased was always laid out in the living room of the house in the morning. The coffin had to be placed so that the foot end was towards the door. It also had to be carried out that way, feet first, so that the deceased could not drag any of the mourners with him. The deceased shoes many times were laid outside near the entrance of the house. Often a hymnal was laid in the coffin so that the dead could immediately sing the praises of the Lord at judgment day.

A fishing net was placed in the coffin of a fisherman. A toy was placed in the coffin of a child. A candle was placed in the hands of an older person so that their souls would find their way to heaven. When an estate owner or farmer died, it was the custom that all the livestock is taken to the barnyard as soon as the body was taken out of the house. This was the way that the animals would know that their owner had passed away. The coffin was transported to the cemetery on a horse drawn wagon.
Everybody watched the horses. If the horses turned their heads in the direction of the farmstead, they believed this was a sign that someone in that house would be the next to die. If the horses stopped for a short time to rest in front of a house, death would come soon to someone living there.

After the burial, everyone went to church, where the Pastor would hold a service. The type of service held depended upon how much money the
Pastor received. The cost of a simple sermon was about a Taler. A sermon with what was called a Ruhmeszettel cost five Taler. In the Ruhmeszettel the pastor would mention all the good things the deceased had done.
There was a funeral repast at the house of the mourning after the church service. A meal was served usually chicken soup, roast beef, and some kind of sweet dessert. Later, coffee and cakes would be served in great quantities. At first the mourners wore solemn expressions on their faces, but after several servings of brandy, they soon loosened their expressions. Little by little, a cheerfulness replaced the sadness. In Vor Pommern funerals were always reasons for families to get together.

The Pomeranian culture and traditions lasted several generations but were lost during World War II when animosity toward Germans kept the culture in the closet for fear of persecution. Today some families are bringing these traditions back to their children. Harry Claussen (See:58 ii. 43) the grandfather of Annette Perrone (See: i. 59) always sang "O Tannenbaum" to his children and grandchildren at Christmas. These were special times and fondly remembered by all of us. It is hoped the older generations in the Claussen family will teach some of these traditions to their children and their grandchildren.

Martha and Les Riggle, WitchitaKansas
Elaine Kraft, Cedarburg Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper December 11, 2002
The Christmas Keeping Germans by Neita Oviatt Friend, Eagles Nest Publications Hartland Wisconsin 53029