From Sam Brungardt
In Ellis County, Kansas, New Year's is still the
day to call on grandparents, parents, godparents, and possibly close
friends. When a child wishes an adult a happy new year (which we
called "winching," or a little more correctly wünsching), the custom
is for the adult to give the child some money (Wünschgelt, or wishing
How much Wünschgelt we'd get depended upon whom we
were wishing a Happy New Year (also, a Wünsch in German often paid
off better than one in English). Most often, we'd get a quarter,
half dollar, or dollar (often a silver dollar). Although, my grandpa
was lucky enough to have oil on his land, so in his later years
he gave all his grandkids a crisp $5 bill). Of course, to give new,
crisp paper money is more appropriate for the New Year than old,
crumbled bills. My dad's 82 and he still gives me (I'm 51) Wünschgelt
whenever I manage to make it home for New Year's.
Adult visitors who wünsch their host are given a
shot of whiskey, glass of wine, or a beer instead of money. Needless
to say, things can get pretty merry by the end of the day.
The New Year's Wünsches varied with the family, which
colony they were from, and whom you are wünsching. Almost always
the Wünsch is very respectable. However, I've heard some that are
pretty racy (In one, the wünscher wishes the wünschee Hundsfotts
[Hundsföttsche'], or dog farts).
Here's one that's respectable and you don't have
to be afraid to use:
Ich wünsche euch ein glückseliges Neues Jahr. Langes
Leben. Gesündheit. Fried und Einigkeit. Und nach dem Tod, ewig Glückseligkeit.
(I wish you [everyone in your family] a luck-filled New Year. Long
life. Good health. Peace and unity. And after death, eternal happiness.)
The recipient might respond:
Danke schön. So wünsche ich euch auch! (Thank you
very much. I wish you [all] the same.)
There are quite a few Wünschen in "Thunder on the
Steppe."--Sam Brungardt in St. Paul, Minn.
Letter from W. P. Anhorn
regarding family traditions
9 January 1999
Brother Placid Gross
Richardton, ND 58652
Dear Brother Gross,
Reading your "Folklore Forum" in the GRHS newsletter
and the "Pride in Your Heritage" essay in the Heritage Review,
sparked some memories of traditions practiced in our family circle
years ago. The practice of wishing our Elders New Years Greetings
on New Years day could be a very profitable venture for us children.
The earlier in the first morning of the New Year that this could
be done the better. We children of the family each learned a "Nei
Johar Winschen Spruch" to be recited "ouswindich" to our Aunts and
Uncles as they were called on.
The idea was to call on the relatives as early in
the morning as possible, even to get them out of bed, to deliver
the greetings. The older ones would recite the following:
Vile dos nies Johar ist kommen
Hob ich mere es fore genomem,
Tzu ich winschen in de ziet
Feel glick und seligkeit
So feel dreflien in dos reigen
So feel glick und so feel seigen
Sol iche Gott de miastay gaben
In deses neies Johar
Because I was the smallest one in the troop, I had
a very short verse to memorize. It went like this:
Ich bin ien kiner man,
Ich winsch iche vas kun,
Gelt rous, gelt rous,
Oder ich schiez ien loch ins Hous
These early New Years Day recitations yielded each
child a reward of a nickel or a dime from each of the households
visited. If you called real early and recited without hesitation,
you may even have gotten a quarter.
This tradition was practiced in the 1930's within
our extended families in Medicine Hat, Alberta. This visit by the
children to the Aunts and Uncles was much looked forward to by all.
Not to make such a call would have been considered a "slight".
Submitted for your sharing with others. You may want
to brush up my Swabian German phonetics.