Since I wrote my last blog post about the Kläpperjungen (young boys) in Kreis Saarburg and their duty to call their village to prayer and church services when the bells in the church steeple were silent from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday, I have learned a few things more about both the Easter customs in the Rhineland and in my very own Heimat village in Irsch.
This epilogue began to take shape because of comments about my last post: "Easter Tales: the Kläpperjungen and the Mirror in the Fountain." The first comment was made by a fellow blogger who was born and grew up in Germany. She said that her village in the Lower Rhineland area had no Klapperjungen, but she remembered that the church bells were completely silent on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The children were told that this silence occurred because the church bells had all "flown to Rome" to be blessed by the Pope. On Easter Sunday morning, the bells flew back again, ready to ring out all over the city. This took me by surprise because Maria Croon, who had written about the Kläpperjungen in the Rhineland area that encompasses the Mosel and Saar rivers, had made no mention of flying bells in her reminiscence.
Interesting, I thought. Here is a person who came from today's Rhineland Pfalz state of Germany as do my ancestors, but her area lay north of Kreis Saarburg, and is not a quite as near to France as my ancestor's homeland. I knew that the French bells flew away during Holy Week. Was it possible that my ancestors, too, believed the story of the bells making a trip to Rome, just as in France.
My relative Edeltrud, who grew up in the village of Irsch in the 1950s, was the logical person to ask. Her e-mail answer to my question read, "Yes, the bells leave here too, and kids run arround with wooden "Klappern" and call the hours when normally the bells were ringing. In Irsch they sang (in the old dialect): 'Beetgloock leut, de Beetgloock leut!' (The prayer bell is ringing). They are called Kläpperkinder. In earlier times they were just boys, but now there are girls too." That accounted for the change of name from the more gender specific Kläpperjungen to the non-specific Kläpperkinder.
Ewald Meyer, who has been so much help to me in researching the social history of Irsch, e-mailed after he read my Easter blog. He had information about the Kläpperjungen and their three days of replacing the church bells. He gave me another version of the calls of the Kläpperjungen - in the local dialect. I believe he once called those words as he went about the village with the other boys who were replacing the voice of the bells. Below are the calls and then, in parentheses, a translation of the dialect into today's German.:
1. Zum Angelusläuten am Abend ( before 7 p.m. ): "Et laut Baetglock!" (Es läutet Betglocke)
2. Mittags (noon): "Et laut Mettech!" (Es läutet Mittag)
3. Vor Beginn einer Messfeier: "Et laut zesummen!" (Es läutet zusammen).
Translation: 1. At Angelus time in the evening: "the prayer bell is ringing." 2. At midday: "It is ringing midday." 3. Before the celebration of a Mass: "It is calling (us) together."
My Summary of All the Additional Things I Learned:
*Church bells are silent as a sign of mourning for one or more days before Easter in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The tradition around the silent bells originates from the 7th century when the Church forbade the ringing of the bells in homage to the death of Christ between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday.
*In France, and in bordering parts of The Netherlands and Belgium, legend has it that on Maundy Thursday, the bell’s chimes flee to Rome where the Pope blesses them. There, they collect the Easter eggs which they will scatter in gardens and yards on their return journey which is the morning of Easter Sunday. When children hear the bells, they go out to the garden on an egg hunt. The Easter Bells are often represented with a pair of wings, ribbons or sometimes are transported in a cart.
As I was writing this short piece I was struck by something. My great-great grandparent's emigration journey across Germany and France to the Port of Le Havre must have begun just after the auction of their moveable property on March 22. Palm Sunday was on March 24 in 1861, very early. Thus the day that they and the other families who were traveling with them began their journey was sometime just before or during the Kläpperjugen days. Four boys, including my great grandfather Mathias, who should have been carrying their Raspeln and crying out "Et laut Baetglock!, "Et laut zesummen!" were instead traveling into the unknown with the rest of their family.