In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller & Jay Gage
The heritage of the Germans from Russia is an important part of
our northern plains culture. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
at the NDSU Libraries in Fargo reaches out to prairie families and
former Dakotans. Readers' responses with suggestions and opinions
are encouraged. In this month's column, we focus on Easter traditions
in German-Russian homes here on the Dakota prairies.
Lorraine Kastelen writes, "We made nests out in the yard,
close to the house for spring warmth. These were lined with moss
and prepared for a few 'bunny' eggs. Onion skins were included,
in colored water often made from 'crepe' paper. The onion skin helped
the color to 'take'. The bunny was looked after too! Earlier in
the winter, we planted wheat in an empty tobacco can, so it was
a nice green grass look for the bunny to eat. And sure enough, early
Easter Sunday morning, when we checked our nests, we noticed one
or two grass leaves had indeed been nibbled. This nest custom was
a transport from the South Russia village of my mother, named Kandel
near Odessa, Ukraine."
Baskets Full of Easter Joy
Mary (Welk) Mitzel, born in 1913 and raised on a farm near Orrin
in Pierce County, ND, shares her memories of Easter, "Mother
always brought two sets of egg dye. We would do the first six colors
until the water cooled, then she would make the second set of colors.
We would hard boil 5 to 6 dozen eggs on Easter Saturday, spending
several hours helping Easter Rabbit (Osterhase). Explained to us
kids that the Easter Bunny had so many children to visit, especially
'poor children', we had to help out!"
"The fun task was to search outside, to gather grass, and
make several nests around the house yard for Easter Rabbit to fill
with colored eggs. We made a large batch of sugar cookies decorated
with colored frostings. They remained inside our house with Mother's
assurance that Easter Bunny did get his cookies too!"
"For Easter candy, we had those favorite yellow or pink marshmallow
chicks, along with colored candy eggs with white cream centers."
[Mary Mitzel's three daughters, Cynthia, Loretta and Mary Lou, will
travel to their ancestral villages of Strassburg and Selz near Odessa,
Ukraine in May, 1997. They will meet their newly-found cousin, Antonia
Welk Ivanova, in Strassburg, a neighboring village to Selz, Kutschurgan
Enclave. Mary's parents and grandparents were born in Selz, Ukraine.]
Bowling Your Egg at Alt-Posttal Village
Closer...closer...roll two eggs into collision course. Bumping
like billiard balls, who has the toughest shell? This Bessarabian
village of Alt-Posttal, ancestral homeland to many Dakotans, historically
featured an extensive Paschen "Eierlesen". (To refresh
our memories, an exquisite miniature of their Eierlesen greensward
is displayed in full regalia, at the Heimatmuseum der Deutschen
aus Bessarabien in Stuttgart, Germany.)
A black and white spiral-striped paschal-pole is erected in the
Eierlesengarten. This 20 feet-plus vertical pole is mounted on a
hinged base and is kept erect with tensioned anchoring cables in
the non-cardinal directions. Along every meter (or three feet) of
the pole's length, vividly-colored ribbon streamers flaunt a jubilant
array of yellow, pink, lavender, scarlet, maroon, purple, blue,
aqua, green, chartreuse, and white. Near this festive pole's tip,
bouquets of flowers in red, purple, pink and yellow are mounted
in three clustered stages.
Colorfully-dyed eggs, identified as to each entrant, are aligned
in straight rows, outward from the vertical pole, in the horizontal
four cardinal directions of the greensward. These horizontal rolling
surfaces are painted bright pastel colors. Only celebrant officials
and actively-rolling contestants are permitted in the uncluttered
gaming-garden, to allow clear visibility to side line observers
of cheering village families. Ach, another "egg-bump"
German-Russians in Arizona and California
We were pleased to see so many attend the NDSU Libraries outreach
programs in Sun City and Mesa, AZ and in Redondo Beach, Lodi and
Sacramento, CA. The date for the next North Dakota Picnic in Mesa
is March 1, 1998. The German-Russian community in the Lodi area
historically includes many former Dakotans, since 1904 promotions
by Gottlieb Hieb.
North Dakota REC/RTC Magazine Features Article on Bundestreffen
The March, 1997 issue includes the article with many photos, "You
Can Go Home Again with the Aussiedlers in Stuttgart, Germany",
by Ron Vossler, a Wishek, ND, native. Ron will serve as an oral
interviewer and writer during the NDSU Libraries-sponsored Journey
to the Homeland Tour, May 17-31, 1997.
Share Your Memories
We invite readers to share their memories of growing up in a German-Russian
home. Many of these items, including customs, folklore, and recipes,
appear at the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection World Wide
Web homepage at http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc. For
further information, contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries,
PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu).