Memories of Ostern
(Easter) in Teplitz, Bessarabia
By Alfred Opp, Vancouver, British Columbia
In my village of Teplitz, Easter was the holiest
time of the year. As springtime arrived, so also did
the early flowers and the greening of the trees. It
was a happy time. It was also a time to remember to
cleanse our souls and appreciate all the good things
we continually received.
Easter also was a time to remember the loved ones
that had passed away. We remembered that life was
given to us to live in God's name and that we had
been saved and forgiven from our sins by Jesus Christ.
To arouse our conscience, the season started a few
weeks ahead of Easter with "Fastensonntag"
or Fasting-Sunday - a time to hold back on lust and
pleasures in respect of our holy commitment. Then
came "Palmsonntag" or Palm Sunday which
was a special day in the church.
The time just before Easter was spent in many preparations.
For example, men cleaned up the yard and white washed
the buildings, the women baked Easter Bread and colored
the eggs. The house received a spring cleaning. Then
came Gruendonnerstag" the Thursday before Good
Friday which found all the village work and common
activities completely shut down. Folks visited the
Graveyard to put their last touch on the graves for
Easter. Our "Friedhof" (cemetery) in Teplitz
looked like a park - it was simply beautiful with
all the plants and flowers decorating the graves.
Easter was not all tears and sorrow. The children
seeded a plate with grass for the Easter Rabbit. Mom
told us kids that when the grass had grown to a height
of 6 inches the Easter Bunny would appear on the window
sill to present goodies for those children who had
been brave. So we kids placed the plate on the window
sill and waited. I can so well remember thinking,
Why does the grass grow soooo slow!
On Good Friday the church held services were well
attended. So many faces were in attendance that were
otherwise rarely seen that the place was packed. On
that Good Friday every woman was dressed in black
with everybody solemnly thinking of Jesus suffering
on the cross for our sins. Tears could be seen on
many faces during the service. It was a moving experience.
No meat was eaten on Good Friday.
After the Friday services, everyone went to the graveyard
to share their thoughts about loved ones who weren't
here but were still in our hearts. This perpetuated
a wonderful family bond of love and appreciation.
For the entire day common activities and celebrations
were kept to a minimum.
Saturday was a day of normal activities. After church
on Easter Sunday, children got up early to check their
Easter nest to see what the /Osterhase /(Easter Rabbit)
had brought them. After breakfast, the family went
to church. After the church service ended, people
once again went to the /Friedhof/ (cemetery) in memory
of the loved ones long gone. The day continued with
a festive family dinner, typically lamb roast with
sweet rice and trimmings. Then followed the visiting
of relatives where coffee and "Suessbrot"
or "Hefazopf" (an Easter Bread) was served.
Small children ran around happy in their play and
the young folks went out to the pasture to play an
Easter Egg game. In later years (after WWI), the young
people concluded the day with a folk dance.
We celebrated Easter both in respect for our religious
beliefs, and at the same time we celebrated the arrival
of spring. The observance of the old traditions passed
down by our ancestors were very much the core of how
we observed the occasion. We thank God for the good
times we had and the feelings we so fondly shared
with our family members and friends.
To this day, Easter remains for us a
lasting gift of spirit and devotion. Happy Easter
Alfred Opp is the author of "Pawns
on the World Stage" - the memoirs of his
childhood in Teplitz, Bessarabia and the experiences
of his family in war-torn Europe (Poland during 1941-1945
before they fled to East Germany in 1945, then the
reconstruction of West Germany 1945-1955).
Note: Many of the recipes mentioned can be found
in "Bessarabische Spezialitaeten:aus der Kolonisten
am Schwarzen Meer, 1814 - 1940", 1999, 82 pages
in color, compiled by Gertrud Knopp-Rueb.
English translation of the cookbook title is "Bessarabian
Food Specialities: From the Settlement Period of the
German Colonies in the Black Sea Region, 1814 -1940".
This cookbook is available including a translation
of the recipes at this webpage: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbook/knopp2.html