Bessarabia: Homeland in pictures is appearing for the eighteenth time in the year 1989. We hope you derive much enjoyment from the selected pictures and the Pictorial Calendar will be a pleasant companion again during the year 1989.
The fact has not escaped those who admire our calendar that besides the mere picture documentation we also strive to impart valuable information about Bessarabia as well as about our Home Museum. In this calendar you will learn about th Christmas customs and practices in a typical Bessarabian home and be reminded of the details of childhood days.
CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES IN THE TYPICAL BESSARABIAN HOME
“macht hoch die Tür, die Tor , macht weit!
Es kommt der her der Herrlichkeit....”
Lift high he door, make wide the gate!
The King of Glory is coming...
With the first Sunday in advent, four Sundays before the Christ Fest, the pre-Christmas time begins everywhere. The subsequent Christmastime ended in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bessarabia with the Sunday after Epiphany, the Festival of the Manifestation and of the three Holy Kings.
Advent – Latin: Adventus arrival – for Christianity, the time of expectation, of preparation, of silent communion.
Advent time was characterized by various outer and inner preparations for the Christfest. Derived from the Christ-like convictions of other fathers, the message of Bethlehem was the ruling and deciding power of all activities in these days and weeks.
During the week, usually on Wednesday evening, a Bible Hour was observed. In many homes at the twilight hour Goszner’s “Treasure Chest” or other uplifting books were read aloud. Christmas stories were told in the family circle and carols were sung.
For the children, this was an especially mysterious time filled with hopeful expectations. They were told that the Christ Child would be coming soon. They were taught recitations to be recited under the Christmas tree on the Holy Night. Throughout , Christmas songs were sung, either in the school or at home.
Those times have remained very much alive in my memory and at Advent
time come ever into the foreground of my thoughts.
Much of what I am relating here is based on my own experience, but the same or similar things took place in many other families.
The mothers and older sisters had their hands full during the pre-Christmas season because of all the preparations that had to be made for the physical well-being of their own “Groszfamilie,” as well as for expected guests.
Already in late October or early November, the geese were butchered because smoked goose breasts and little thighs, but above all, the delicious roast goose could not be missing at Christmastime!
Before Christmas, the first pigs were also butchered. For this, the butcher came to the home. Depending on whether the little boys and girls were good, unquestionably good, the butcher would bring pigtail candies from his pocket of his large white apron, pretending they came from the pig’s belly. He would smilingly present the candy to the little ones. What great delight the children took in this event. They made sure that the next summer they again fed candy wrappers to the “Borstentieren” (bristled animals). The house butcher also determined the length of the prepared sausage by either the waist size of a boy or his measure from ear to ear. This provided fun for all.
Yes, on butcher day the entire family had to participate whether by making sausage, cutting bacon, rendering pork rinds or setting up the large butcher kettles outdoors.
Sometimes a youth – age 12 to 14 year – was asked to bring the Presmagen-spiesz (headcheese spear). He would return dragging a heavy bag, only to find in it, to his dismay, several heavy bricks or other weighty items. That meant the had to be on alert. Though he had been fooled once, he took this practical joke good-naturedly on butchering day and played along next time.
When butchering day was over, soap was cooked in the butcher kettles from the least valuable fat of the pig, mixed with lye. Each housewife had her own recipe – yes even for creating scented soap!
Christmas baking, begun three weeks before Christmas, was no minor task for the housewife. It was carried out with much care devotion or love. Each variety had to be baked at the time, so that everything was exactly seasoned and crisp. The Bessarabian German Wife developed an accurate baking system. Ten to fifteen varieties were not unusual – Springerla, Anibrötla, Zimsterne, Durchgedrehte, Pfefferminzküchla,Honigküchla, Schnörkela, Ausstecherla, Butter-S-la, Pfeffernüßla, Lebkucha (ginger bread). Added to these were the yeast pigtails (twists) and last but not least, the Schnitz or Hutzelbrot (fruit bread) that above all, was served on Holy Three Kings Day. Not to be mentioned was the instant chocolate Zulerla “g’kochte Zukerla,” which in the affections of the “sweet toothers” was ranked second only tot the best and most expensive purchased Schwänzles Zuckerlar (curly-tail candy) and the Krebszuckerla.
Much pre-planning was required.
Especially secretive were the long winter evenings just before Christmas. Outdoors, a crackling frost prevailed and the land was covered with snow. Chores had to be done in the barns and yards, but fieldwork was halted. In the evening, one sat in the large warm living room. The father read his newspaper or some devotions from a book of prayers. The mother sat at her spinning wheel; the older sisters knitted, sewed, crocheted or stitched handwork planned for a handmade Christmas gift .The older brother was not idle. He was busy making a toy – a doll cradle, little wooden horses, a jumping jack – or he made with very beautiful carving work, a jewel case with the initials of his beloved carved on it. Very beautiful chess figures were also created by his hands.
With the children, one played dominoes, checkers, mill “Mensch-ärgere-Dich-nicht” (man, don’t fret), and other games. After age ten the young boys made familiar with the chess board by the older brother, and many of them became outstanding chess players in time. On such evenings, the old and new Christmas songs were sung in the soft light of the ring-burners.
That one knew all the stanzas of a song by heart was a point of honor – for the young students as well. For that reason the teachers in the school and the mother in the home made sure a priority was put on diligent memory work.
When I think back on wintry Bessarabia, I today still feel the cozy and comfortable atmosphere in the family room near Christmastime. O, how clearly I recall how suddenly on an evening the window shutters rattled and shook! One also heard the rattle of a heavy chain. The little ones paled with fright and clung to mother’s skirt – a sure rescue place. All looked at each other in silence and an older brother expressed what they all thought: It was the Pelzmärte (Santa Claus). Quickly the oldest brother hurried to the house door and returned with apples, nuts or with bockshörnle (buckhorn) and candy. The Pelzmärte (Santa Claus) had left these things under the window for the little ones. Dividing the gifts took away the fear and anxiety. Soon it was bedtime.
Tired, but contented, the children went to bed, spoke their evening prayers politely; recited their Christmas verses and then slept peacefully and blessed toward the coming “Christfest.”
The advent calendars with little doors to open each day did not exist in my childhood. Yet we children knew how to help ourselves count the days before Christmas. We drew pictures to illustrate the tension-laden days. I did not attend school when my sister drew a chalk line on a darkly painted door frame fore each day until the Holy Night. The three youngest could wipe off one line each evening at bedtime. And then there was counting: five times – three times – one more time to sleep and then the Christ Child comes!
In some families these lines were drawn on the underside of the sitting room table and the children in delight slid under to wipe out another line. For me and my now-old companions, those were children’s joys to never be forgotten.
Morgen, Kinder, wird’s was geben,
Morgen werdenwir uns freun!
Welch ein Jubel, welch ein Leben
Einmal warden wir noch wach,
Heisza, dann ist Weihnachtstag!
Tomorrow, children something will happen,
Tomorrow we will be glad!
What a jubilation, what a life
Will there be in our house!
Once more we will wake up –
Hurrah, then it’s Christmas Day!
During my childhood there was no advent wreathes. These first appeared in Bessarabia in the 1930’s and were only sporadically known. There was a reason: In South Bessarabia we had no fir trees and consequently no fir twigs. Yet the Christmas tree was not absent from my house.
In Germany the lighted tree adorned the room at Christmas time in the 1900’s. Our forefathers practiced this even before their emigration to Bessarabia. The Christmas tree was initiated in deep Russia in 1918. In Rumanian times it was brought from Buchenwald or Siebenbürgen by the Karpations. The trees arrived shortly before Christmas. The news was spread through the village – “The Christmas trees have come!” Who would be held at home or in school? Everybody felt lucky if he could acquire a little pine twig. After 2 or 3 days, there were no more pine trees to be seen – they had simply vanished from the earth. Where had they disappeared to? The children were told that Father Christmas took them all. Not until the Holy Night did the ir tree appear again in golden candle glow in the Christmas room deorated with apples, gold and silver nuts, silver garlands and “schwänzles zukerla” (candy) and gingerbread.
As a child, I never noticed or knew when Father and Mother bought the Christmas tree or in what safe place they stored it until Christmas Eve, but explored possible hiding places without results. To be sure, one week before Christmas, the living room was not to be entered by the children. Peeking through the keyhole offered no explanation for the mystery in the living room. It was not until the Holy Evening, as seen only by the eyes of a child, the withheld Christmas glory was revealed and experienced.
To this day I remember standing in adoration before the Christ-child under the lighted tree. Suspended from the ceiling above, an angel swaying gently to and fro in the warmth of the lighted candles. I want to remember the “Bobbelstag” (dolls day) observed on December 21, Day of the Apostle Thomas. The school children celebrate it as the first day of vacationa and could be truly glad to welcome the Christchild.
This apostles holiday was not universally observed. Traditionally on this day the dolls got new dresses and their clothes were mended. The porcelain heads remained the same. New dolls were outfitted as eager hands prepared the last gifts for the great holiday.
On Christmas Eve day it was customary to feel a closeness with the children so occupied with expectations and surprises.
In the forenoon, there was much to be done in the house and the kitchen so that theafternoon could be spent restfully and reflective. In early afternoon the little ones anxiously awaited their “Christkindla” – presents from their godparents, “Doda” (godaunt), and “Döde” (goduncle). I remember how early in the afternoon we waited impatiently for Klara, the daughter of Doda to come around the corner at Demuts with her large white Bogenkorb (basket) covered with a snow-white cloth. Very orderly and spellbound, we awaited her entrance to the house. She would express the greetings from Doda to us children and hand the basket to my mother who took it carefully and vanished into the sitting room. After a “Schwätzle” (little talk) with the deliverer, goodbyes were said. We children expressed our thanks and sent hearty greetings to our Doda and promised to visit in return.
After this short but pleasant visit from Klara, Maria soon came across the street. She was the daughter of our Döde . One of us children caught a glimpse of her through the peek hole we had made in the frozen window pane with our breath. Maria also carried a very large basket filled to the top. Spread over it was a white cloth. As Maria stepped into the warm room from the cold outside, her cheeks glowed – perhaps with joy over bringing the “Christkendle” from Döde or because she knew that something nice and good was in the basket for us.
I must mention that the “Christkendla” from our Doda as well as from our Döda, by our understanding, were always abundant. Not only the gifts but the exceptionally good gingerbread cakes were for each of us children a good supply for the coming Christmastime. Each could eat his own share when he chose.
The Holy Evening was a pronounced celebration by the family. It was observed in various ways by the individual communities and families. At 6 o’clock Christmas Eve began. Everyone streamed to the church. Only the little children, the very old and feeble and the sick remained at home. Before there was street lighting, church leaders led the way to the church with their barn lanterns. It was somehow ceremonial, and for us, also somewhat ghostly if in the distance one saw only the moving lantern light and the long darting shadows. The hour until the service ended seemed endless for the impatient children at home. For the big sister it was not easy to keep them occupied and under control by reading and telling stories.
The most solemn and impressive service of the whole church year took place as the Christmas service. Each year, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds was lastingly more impressive.
Siehe, ich verkündige euch grosze Freude,
Die allem Volk wiederfahren wird;
Denn euch ist heute der Heiland geboren,
Welcher ist Christus,
Der Herr, in de Stadt Davids.
Unde da habt zum zeichen:
Ihr werdet finden das Kind in Windeln gewickelt
Und in einer Krippe Lieged.
Und alsbald war da bei dem Engel
Die Menge der himmlischen Heercharen,
Die lobten Gott und sprachen:
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe und Friede auf Erden
Und den Menschen ein wohlgegfallen!
The church choir joined in the rejoicing and sang:
This is the night when God’s great friendliness
Appeared to me. The child, served by all the angles,
Brings light into my darkness; and this light
World and heavenly light does not give way to a hundred thousand suns.
At the close of the service, the traditional joyous Christmas song “O du fröhliche, O, du selige, gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit” rang out. The first stanza was sung by the church choir; the second by the congregation, and when the band joined in on the third stanza, the hardest human heart was softened and felt the nearness of the Lord, who as a child came to earth for us all.
And as one left the church, these words rang out in the heart: Hear, hear how in full chorus all the air rings with “Christ is born!”
In happy mood and festive unity, the parents and grown siblings came home to where the impatient “stay-at-homers” were waiting for them.
Now it was not long before the gift sharing, but each minute seemed like and eternity to the waiting children. Then, at last the little Christmas bell sounded in the front room. The door opened and the children’s eyes became wider and wider as they stared, spell-bound, at the all the splendor before them. Overcome by surprise and nearly trembling, they took a place under the Christmas tree, their eyes directed to the spell-binding glow of the candles. Then a song was heard.
Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her!
Ich bring euch gute neue mär....
From heaven high I come to here
I bring you new good news....
Slowly and deliberately, the Christ child came through the door wearing a veil and long white gloves; stood before the children and waited gravely until the last strains of the song died away.
The eyes of the wondering children were upon the Christchild as they prayerfully sought words to answer the question, “Can you pray?” For weeks they had practiced it to speak it in alittle verse – joyfully and loud! “Christkindlein komm, mach mich fromm” (Christchild come, and make me good) or the parents recited: “Cheerfully leaps my heart in this time when all angels sing with joy.”
Then came the time for the presents. What bliss, what joy filled the children’s hearts! It was so unspeakably beautiful, as only a holy evening can be.
After the last child had spoken his little verse and the Christchild had praised their good behavior together with advice to be obedient, sweet and brave, the figure vanished un-noticed while a chorus rang out:
All Yahre wiede kommt das Christuskind
Auf die Erde nieder, wo wir Menschen sind.
Kehrt mit Segen ein in yedes Haus,
Geht auf allen Egen mit uns ein und aus.
Ist auch mir zur Seite, still und unerkannt,
Dasz es treu mich leite and der lieben Hand.
Each year the Christchild comes
Down to earth where we people are.
Comes with its blessing to each house,
Goes in and out with us in all ways.
Is beside me – quiet and unrecognized;
Leads me faithfully by the hand.
Now and then, the “Pelzmärte” (fur coat figure rattled his chain outside, but at our house this rough fellow never came into the house.
For festive food, one gathered merrily and happily around the richly spread table in spite of reluctance to part from one’s gift. The family remained together, stories were told, all known carols were sung. Then came to the table the Christmas cookies, walnuts, peanuts, sugar candy, bockshörnle (buckhorn) and apples.
Late in the evening, the children sank into their beds dead tired each holding a little doll or a little horse in his arms as he fell peacefully asleep. O, blessed childhood!
On Christmas Day, December 25 at 8 o’clock an early church service took place, most eventful day of the year for the school children. At the center of the service the birth of the Christchild was proclaimed. He had come to save us all. The well-know children’s carols were sung. Above all:
Ihr kinderlein kommet, O kommet doch all!...
All yahre wieder, kommt das Christkin...
Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht...
O, come little children, O come one and all...
Each year the Christ child comes...
Silent Night, Holy Night...
Then the gifts for the children were distributed by the deacon and teachers. In addition to a little sack of snacks, they each received exercise books, pencils, erasers and little scripture booklets suitable for their age. These gifts were enthusiastically received and hurriedly taken home to be shown to their parents.
At 10 o’clock in the morning, the community worship service was held and everyone came. Like on Christmas Eve, the church was filled. The choir and orchestra provided a musical setting for this occasion.
Dies ist der tag, den Gott gemachet,
Sein wert in all Welt gedacht!
Ihn preise, was durch Jesum Christ
In Himmel und auf Erden ist!
This is the day the Lord has made,
His worth in all the world be known!
Praise be to Him who through Jesus Christ
Gave all this is on the earth!
On the eve of the first Christmas holiday a Christmas celebration took place at the hour of six. Students and teachers prepared for it for weeks. Now was the time to put their presentation to the test before the entire community. Old and new songs were sung in part harmony. Verses were recited and the Christmas story was enacted around a manger scene. Tears of joy and emotion came to the eyes of the parents and grandparents as they listened to the clear voices of their children and grandchildren.
This evening provided a special experience for the entire community.
It had a lasting effect, touching everyone deeply when the clear
voices of their children and grandchildren sang:
What rejoicing, what joy comes with the dear Christmas time! One sees all people happy in all of christendom. “Glory to God,” let it resound, and peace on earth, good-will to men. For unto you is born this day the Lord in the city of David!”
The evening of the first day of Christmas rang out with joy in the inner circles of families. Only relatives were invited.
In the afternoon and evenings of the third Christmas holidays company was invited and the Bessarabian hospitality was really in evidence and the best from the kitchen and cellar was abundantly served. The hours and days of visiting passed far too soon.
The third Christmas Day – yes, there was such in Bessarabia called Apostle John Day. It ended the holidays. On December 28, Wandertag (Wander Day) followed.
On Wander Day the hired men and maids exchanged jobs. If someone
served a master for another year, it was customary for him to have
the day off to spend with friends. The employer would leave nothing
undone in entertaining invited guests.
The time between Christmas, New Year, and Holy Three Kings was all considered Christmas time. It was customary and understandable that during this time much visiting was done among large relationships and good friends.
On New Year’s Eve, communion was served at the church. Nearly all grown members took part. It was not only a solemn, but also an impressive and uplifting experience where women in black clothing and men stepped to the alter in candlelight to receive Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sin and strength for the new year.
The rest of the evening was seriously and thoughtfully spent in family and friendship circles. IN the last decade before Resettlement, it came about that the young people in the youth and cultural societies came together to celebrate New Year’s Eve in their own way. Gun shooting to bring in the new year was not generally practiced. The congregation gathered around the front of the church and in the vestibule. The choir stood on the steps and the orchestra was up in the churh tower.
The choir sang:
The year’s last hour rings out in earnest tone:
Sing, sing from the depth of your heart
And wish for blessings to follow.
In the dreadful years now fled
Each brought some joy, but much worry.
Yet we are led nearer to the goal.
Yes, they brought much joy and worry
But led us nearer to the goal.
Thoughtfully we stand at the border of the year
And look before us into the new –
If the wished-for shines toward us –
If it will come as we wished it.
Ten minutes before the hour of 12, the wind instruments struck up the band. From the church steeple echoes rang far over the land:
Oh, once again a year has vanished
One year, never to return!
Oh, more than eight times thousand hours
Are gone in the twinkling of an eye!
Gone my virtues and my sins!
But no: The judge of all the world
Lets me find some of them again
When He has me approach His throne.
Then all the bells chimed together – ringing out the old year. Silence followed her for one minute, created an emotional pause, then the bell tones sounded 12 times and once again a minute of complete silence reigned. Then all the bells chimed and ushered in the New Year and once again the choir sang:
Now lets us go and appear before the Lord with singing prayer to Him who has given strength to our lives until this day. We go forward, wandering from one year to the next; we live and prosper from the old to the new.
Then there came shooting and banging from all corners. Rifles and light rockets did not exist yet, but the hunters did there thing and the youth had their self-invented explosives consisting of nails, wrenches, and bolts combined with saltpeter and home-made powder.
After mutual New Year wishes, the crowd scattered. Most people went home promptly, their thoughts dwelling on the passing of the old and the beginning of the new year. Many asked themselves the question: What will the new year bring us? The young people celebrated in their inner friendship circles but it was not the general rule.
The band brought out prominent people like the mayor, doctors and the well-situated from which a serenade brought the result: expressions of good luck and a full cash box. Money was always needed in a music society to buy new instruments, music scores or flags and banners.
New Years Day began bright and early. Not only because of work in barn, yard, or house, but because, above all, “Surbser” was expected. He was a “congratulator who delivered good wishes for the new year. This practice also varied in individual communities.
Immanuel Schöck tells how it was in Sarata:
On New Year morning, before daylight, the yard dogs barked and raged. Rough voices were heard and heavy steps sounded outdoors. The Surbsers had arrived. They were Russian and Ukrainian congratulators from nearby places. Before Christmas, mother had prepared an extra large (?) for them. In it were baked goods and a stack of mall change Father had collected to reward the congratulators. They would come blustering in, individually or in groups, to lustily and loudly sing their “not-so-beautiful” song in monotone.
“Po lesu chodila dewa Maria, syna nam rodila dewa Maria” (Durch den Walt ging die Jungfrau Maria, einen Sohn hat uns geboren die Jungfrau Maria)
Translated to English:
(Through the forest went the maiden Maria who bore us a son)
Then reaching into small sacks slung over their shoulders, they
brought out handfuls of grain scattered the kernels over the heads
of those present in the room. Speaking in Ukrainian, they said:
Siu, Wiu, posiwaiu, s nowym godom posdrawliaiu.” German: Ich
säe, reinige durch den Wind und säe wider und gratuliere
zum neuen Yahr (I sow; fan the seed in the wind and sow again –
congratulation for the new year!).
Only then did the “good morning” greeting come: “Dobroie utro!” (Guten morgen!)(good morning!) They took there gifts and hurried away. Outside, the next group was already waiting and all was repeated from the beginning.
That’s how it went Until 9:30. Often 30, 40, or 50 congratulators came until 9:30. They all hurried because at that hour the church bell rang for the second time; the villagers went to church and the house doors were locked. Whoever had not hurried, fell short in gathering his reward for his well-wishes.
What has not been mentioned here, but was a part of the Christmas joy was sleigh riding and ice skating. The young men drove their girls in horse-drawn sleighs. The horses had little bells attached to the harnesses. With jolly tinkling, the young folks rode through the streets – pictures of happiness and joy in living!
The Feast of the Holy Three Kings ended the Christmas season on January 6 (Appearance Fest). “Sternsingen” (star-singing) on that day was not practiced in Sarata, but in many other communities. In Sarata, the Christmas Tree was taken down on Holy Three Kings Day.
On January 7, vacation was over, school began, things went back
to normal and everyone returned to his daily work. The beuaifully
enriching time cane to an end. Spirits were uplifted and the experiences
have been long remembered.
January 2, 1991 – Translation by Alma M. Herman
Cover Photo 1989 Bessarabia Threshing with the threshing stones
January 1989 Bessarabia Winter in Sarata – snow removal
February 1989 Bessarabia Children at exercise school playing during recess – 1939
March 1989 Bessarabia Confirmation in Tarutino, 1938
April 1989 Bessarabia Farmyard in Tarutino. Horses drinking at the yard well
May 1989 Bessarabia Boy with his loyal friend – the yard dog
June 1989 Bessarabia Yard at the country estate
July 1989 Bessarabia Gnadedfeld – on a Sunday afternoon “auf’m Sitzlinkle” (on the small sitting bench for a little “Schwitzle” (visiting))
August 1989 Bessarabia View from above a threshing place, showing threshing with threshing stones.
September 1989 Bessarabia Borodino: women breaking flax
October 1989 Bessarabia Sarata – winepressing
November 1989 Bessarabia Wedding in the Tarutino Church
December 1989 Bessarabia New Sarata – on a winter evening a cozy gathering in a farmhouse.
Brief Descriptions of Pictures
Title Page When our ancestors immigrated to Bessarabia, they brought the threshing flail along, which at the time was used in Germany for threshing. This form of threshing was very tiring, and it was a big step forward when, about 1860, the threshing came into us. At the sometime the fanning mill, to clean the threshing floor, was introduced. Through these labor-saving devices more land could be farmed.
The picture shows “overturning of the grain” with wooden forks. This picture was repeated several time. The threshing place was prepared to be an open area in the yard. The diameter about 20 m. As a rule, one farmer had three threshing stones, each pulled by two horses. Thus the spread-out of grain was rotated under. Finally, there was the threshing “sled” equipped underneath with suspended flints and weighed down with stones. This made it possible to grind the straw down faster. For the children it was a pleasure to be permitted now and then to rise around the circle several times on the sled
January The snowy winters brought additional work for the farmers. It meant shoveling the yard and driveways to house and barn and hauling the snow away. This was necessary to avoid flooding the yard when the snow melted. Icicles were a part of the winter scene, stirring the imaginations of the children with their off formations.
February Especially in the last decade before resettlement, it was usual for all public schools in Bessarabia to participate in sports during recess under the supervision of the teacher.
In our picture we see the children in the exercise school in Sarata playing a ring game.
March Confirmation was an especially high point in church life and was observed in a solemn church service accompanied by church choirs and trumpet section as Holy Communion was administered. For the young people, a new period in their lives began, because most schooling ended with confirmation and the serious part of life began.
Of no less serious importance was the fact that with confirmation they became full members of the church.
Confirmation was begun by the pastor with three weeks of advance instruction, and concluded with an oral examination before the congregation on the Saturday before Confirmation Sunday. At this time, each confirmed provided proof his belief in the Christian faith, whereby his knowledge of “catechisms and the 73 confirmation questions were essential.
April As a rule, there was a well in each farmyard. Water was a prized item on the prairie, and contented was the farmer who had a well with good water. In the areas where the well-water was too salty or too bitter, artesian wells had to be drilled to a depth of about 100 meters to get drinking water, or else rain water could be collected in a cistern.
May There was not a farmyard without a dog. He was the good, faithful guardian of the house and yard, as well as protector and friend of the children. His devotion to “his” family had no limits. The yard was simply a permanent part of a farmyard.
June The household yard of a farming property was very spacious. It was bordered by a wall confining the living quarters and business buildings on one side and the neighboring yard on the other, thus entirely closing it in. There was a busy life spent during the warm seasons.
July In spite of the hard work in the summertime, church attendance was understood. In the afternoon, one liked to sit on the yard bench and visit. Passerby gladly stopped and exchanged news. Today, one would call the little bench a communication center.
August A bird’s eye view of a threshing place. See also the title page description.
September Flax was planted in Bessarabia by the first generation of immigrants at one time for the oil and at another for the flax. The farmers, as a rule, received good prices for the flax seed, often times more than for the precious wheat. That was a welcome income. The flax straw was made into linens and items of clothing. At the time of immigration no farm family was without a loom. Until about 1870, all linen and clothing were hand-made from the raw product.
October The wine industry originated with the settlement of the immigrant “Schwaben” (Schwabians) from Wittenberg. Often the Remstilers were the teachers in planting in vineyards. Each farmer had his weingrarten – “Weinburg” (vineyard). Although the wine was produced mainly for their use, many farmeres fetched good income from it on the side.
November During the time of the Czars and until 1930 the church in Bessarabia had a civil function in marriages. The wedding was conducted by the pastor. He kept the official wedding register. Not until 1930 was his duty transferred to the political community and a civil ceremony preceded a church wedding. The true wedding date, however, was always recognized as the day when the church wedding took place. The entire community took an active part in the wedding. In Bessarabia weddings were always an occasion to be celebrated by the family, by all the relatives, friends and good acquaintances. One hundred to 120 wedding guests was not unusual.
December The winter evenings, particularly, before Christmas, had their own special charm. After work was completed in house and barn, families sat comfortably together in a warm room to do handwork, play games, or just talk. Stories were read and told; old familiar Christmas songs were sung and a good glass of wine was not frowned on. Such evenings served so well in bringing unity for the coming Christmas celebration.
Translation by Alma M. Herman June 1991